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Mikhail Rundaltsov (1871 - 1935)

Lot 65077: MIKHAIL RUNDALTSOV (Russian, 1871-1935) Alexei in

Heritage Auctions

November 14, 2008
Dallas, TX, US

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MIKHAIL RUNDALTSOV (Russian, 1871-1935) Alexei in a Sailor Suit, 1913 Etching on paper 21-7/8 x 16-3/4 inches (55.8 x 42.5 cm) Signed lower right in Cyrillic Etching of Tsarevich Alexei in a Sailor Suit with a remarque depiction of the Imperial Yacht "Shtandart" in the lower left-hand corner, in a birchwood frame, circa 1900. Mikhail Viktorovich Rundalstov was famous for his drypoint etchings of the Imperial Russian family, especially the children, with none more important than the young Tsarevich Alexei. This precious engraving of the young boy in his favorite sailor suit is enhanced by a remarque depiction of the Imperial Yacht "Shtandart" at the lower left, which increases the significance and value of the work. As he often did, Rundalstov would use such an offset at the lower left of his etchings, often the four siblings of the featured Romanov child. Remarkable for their rarity and attention to detail, these etchings were the master Rundalstov's claim to fame - and he had been taught well. The child of a craftsman, Rundalstov was born in 1871 in St. Petersburg and took engraving lessons from his father. His craft was perfected in the studio of Vasily Mate, after which he worked for publishers and magazines, followed by a trip abroad, during which he became a master engraver. Upon his return to Russia he immediately began completing drypoint etchings like the work offered here, a touching master work of the ill-fated heir to the throne. Using the intaglio technique with its velvety shading, the effect is lost from the burr of the plates within just a few prints, making this first-state print much rarer than others. The etching is dramatically complemented by the elegant birchwood and silver rococo, possibly Faberge, frame. The birth of the Tsarevich Alexei on July 4, 1904 was a celebrated event in the Imperial family and the entire country. By law since 1797, the heir to the throne was established only through the male lineage. He followed the birth of the Tsar and Tsarina's four daughters and he was indeed a special child. Tsar Nicholas II even broke with tradition by naming the child Alexei, suspending the traditional line of 'Alexander'- and 'Nicholas'-named successors to the Romanov dynasty. Alas, the history of the young Tsarevich is surrounded by tragedy. At first, it was learned that he suffered from hemophilia, a condition passed down from his great-grandmother Queen Victoria of England. He was therefore watched closely so as not to suffer a wound from which he might not recover. One of his tutors was the retired boatswain Andrei Derevenko of the Imperial Yacht "Shtandart." One of Alexei's favorite military outfits was this sailor suit, which had an accompanying hat with the yacht's name emblazoned upon it. Even under the most watchful eyes, however, the young boy still would suffer wounds that continually threatened his life. His mother, the Tsarina Alexandra, would find comfort in the holy man Rasputin, who purportedly was the only person who could give any relief to Alexei. Despite his illness, the boy actually traveled to the front lines with his father during World War I. Nicholas II felt it important that the heir to the throne be tutored in the ways of war if he were to lead the Russian armies and navies of the future. In fact, Alexei carried his "Shtandart" naval cap with him as he donned a miniature military uniform at the age of ten. With Nicholas II at war and with hardships on the Russian people mounting every day, revolution fomented, and by 1917 Russia was on the verge of total collapse. Demonstrations increased and the government eventually fell, leaving Nicholas II with no option other than abdication, at first in favor of the young Tsarevich Alexei, but almost immediately thereafter withdrawing the proposal after being persuaded that the boy would not live long after being separated from his parents. With the Bolsheviks in power, the Romanov family were under house arrest in the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, the entire family was taken into the basement and shot, the Romanov dynasty and the Tsarevich meeting a violent ending on July 17, 1918.

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