A portrait of Boris Anrep
If you have ever looked at your feet as you walk into the National Gallery in London by the old main entrance, you will have spotted an extraordinary series of mosaics -- on the landing when you get up the first flight of stairs. They feature, among other luminaries of the early twentieth century, Virginia Woolf as Clio the Muse of History (below), Greta Garbo as Melpomene the Muse of Tragedy, plus a range of contemporary vignettes of British life, from football to Christmas pudding or dinosaur gazing.
They are by the Russian, sub-Bloomsbury, mosaicist Boris (von) Anrep, who designed them between the late 1920s and early 50s. I’ve always been rather keen on Anrep – largely because of his smart reworking of classical themes. In fact I had once planned to write about him, and had even got in touch with those around who still remembered him (he died in 1969), but other things got in the way.
There is actually quite a lot of Anrep work to see. He also produced mosaics for Westminster Cathedral, for the Tate and Sandhurst, and he did a number of private Bloomsbury commissions. His was, needless to say, a colourful life beyond the tesserae, including a memorable feud with Roger Fry – who eventually went off with Anrep’s second wife, Helen.
Anyway, interest was rewarded at the Willingham auctions last Saturday, when the husband (for I confess it was he) spotted in the catalogue and then on the wall, a good oil portrait of Anrep – done, to judge by his age, in the 1920s or possibly 30s, and signed by “L Inglesis”. Estimate £30-50.
We wanted it.
We had actually gone to the auction for a couple of chairs which turned out to be nasty, and a fender which turned out to be too small. But we soon devoted our attention to the Anrep.
The first thing we did, thanks to the iPhone, was Google “Anrep” and “Inglesis” and find out that the very same picture had been sold at Bonhams in Ipswich a few years ago (along with a painting by Anrep himself) for £47. Good news….at least Anrep wasn’t yet fashionable in East Anglia.
The auction started badly for us. A carpet fetched something like 10 times its estimate for some reason we couldn’t quite work out. But interest in Anrep turned out to be sluggish, so we got him for £50 and brought him triumphantly home.
What we now want to know is who “L Inglesis” was (or according to Bonham’s “Leonide Iglesis”). The painting is (to use the jargon of exam season) a good “beta/alpha” piece of work (the angel in the back makes it a much more interesting piece than it might look at first sight). But I am afraid that the universal reference tool (viz Google) brings no help.
We wondered if L Inglesis wasn’t a jokey pseudonym for some English guy painting a Russian?? But if anyone has any better leads, please let us know,