For sale is a fine antique goache painting circa 1930 signed by Princess Irina Alexandrovna Yusupov of Russia (1895-1970), of three bears at a beach, the adult bears holding hands with bucket and spade looking out to the sea at the yachts, whilst the baby bear is looking directly at the viewer. She was a well known and prolific artist as was her husband, often painting portraits of themselves and others in the fantastique style. It is signed with her initials 'I.Y.' in the lower right hand corner.
The bears most likely represent her and her husband Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov (1887-1967), and their baby daughter Princess Irina nicknamed "Bébé" (1915-1983). It comes from the personal collection of Prince and Princess Felix Yusupov, and has been matted and framed under UV protective glass by Pure & Applied conservators of London in a black reeded wooden frame.
Princess Irina was the only daughter and eldest child of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia and Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia. She was also the only niece of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and the wife of the wealthiest man in Imperial Russia, Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, one of the men who murdered Grigori Rasputin, "holy healer" to her cousin, the hemophiliac Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia, in 1916.
Irina was given away by her uncle, Nicholas II, and his wedding present to her was a bag of 29 uncut diamonds, ranging from three to seven carats. Irina and Felix also received a large assortment of precious gems from other wedding guests. They later managed to take many of these gems out of the country following the Russian Revolution of 1917 to use them to provide a living in exile.
Following the abdication of the Tsar, the Yussupovs returned to the Moika Palace before going to Crimea. They later returned to the Palace to retrieve jewellery and two paintings by Rembrandt, the sale proceeds of which helped sustain the family in exile. In Crimea, the family boarded a British warship, HMS Marlborough, which took them from Yalta to Malta. Felix enjoyed boasting about killing Rasputin while he was on the ship. One of the British officers noted that Irina "appeared shy and retiring at first, but it was only necessary to take a little notice of her pretty, small daughter to break through her reserve and discover that she was also very charming and spoke fluent English". From there, they traveled to Italy and by train to Paris. In Italy, lacking a visa, Felix bribed the officials with diamonds. In Paris, they stayed a few days in Hôtel de Vendôme before they went on to London.
In 1920, they returned to Paris and bought a house on the Rue Gutenberg in Boulogne-sur-Seine, where they lived most of their lives. They founded a short-lived couture house called Irfé, which took its name from the first two letters of the names Irina and Felix. Irina modeled some of the dresses. The Yusupovs became renowned in the Russian émigré community for their financial generosity. This philanthropy and their continued high living and poor financial management extinguished what remained of the family fortune. Their daughter was largely raised (and spoiled) by her paternal grandparents until she was nine. Her unstable upbringing caused her to become "capricious," according to Felix. Felix and Irina, raised mainly by nannies themselves, were ill-suited to take on the day-to-day burdens of child-rearing. Irina's daughter adored her father but had a more distant relationship with her mother.
Later the family lived from the proceeds of a lawsuit they won against MGM for making a 1932 movie called Rasputin and the Empress. The lecherous Rasputin seduces the Tsar's only niece, called "Princess Natasha", in the film. In 1934, the Yusupovs won a large judgment against the movie studio. Felix also sued CBS in a New York court in 1965 for televising a play based upon the Rasputin killing. The claim was that some events were fictionalized, and under a New York statute, Felix's commercial rights in his story had been misappropriated. The last reported judicial opinion in the case was a ruling by New York's second highest court that the case could not be resolved upon briefs and affidavits but must go to trial. According to an obituary of CBS's lawyer, CBS eventually won the case.
Felix also wrote his memoirs and continued to be both celebrated and infamous as the man who killed Rasputin. For the rest of his life, he was haunted by the killing and suffered from nightmares. However, he also had a reputation as a faith healer.
Irina and Felix, close to one another as they were distant from their daughter, enjoyed a happy and successful marriage for more than 50 years. When Felix died in 1967, Irina was stricken by grief and died three years later.
Photographs form part of the description
Size of Frame: 20.5 x 20.5 cm approx
Size of Painting: 10 cm diameter approx