Selling Russia's Treasures

The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art, 1917-1938

Release Date
Format Hardcover 383 pages 9 x 11.75 inches 383 illustrations, 110 in full color
Category Art History
ISBN-13 978-0-78921-154-5 SKU 1042540

An authoritative illustrated account of the unprecedented sale of Russia’s cultural patrimony by the Soviet government.

Selling Russia’s Treasures documents one of the great cultural dramas of the twentieth century: the sale, by a cash-hungry Soviet government, of the artistic treasures accumulated by the Russian royal family, aristocracy, and church over the centuries and nationalized after the October 1917 revolution. An astonishing variety of objects, from icons and illuminated manuscripts to Fabergé eggs and Old Master paintings, entered the collections of wealthy westerners like Andrew Mellon; in fact, the canvases he purchased from the Hermitage now form the core of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Written by the leading experts in the field and long regarded as the definitive treatment of its subject, the original Russian edition of Selling Russia’s Treasures is sought after by scholars and laymen alike. Now, for the first time, this important book is made available in English, in a revised and expanded edition that includes new material on the secret files of the Hermitage, the sale of religious art, and the loss of twentieth-century French paintings from the Museum of New Western Art.

Numerous color plates reunite long-dispersed masterworks, if only on the page, and rare photographs and archival documents help bring the buried history of the “Stalin sales” to light. Several appendices—including a checklist of pieces sold from Russia’s crown jewels, a chronology, and biographies of key figures—add to the value of this volume, which not only reveals an important episode of cultural history, but is also relevant to contemporary debates about museum deaccessioning and the repatriation of cultural objects.

Distributed for the M.T. Abraham Center for the Visual Arts Foundation


An avidly researched, magnificently illustrated, and thought-provoking history of a country’s once glorious artistic splendor squandered. -- Booklist

This lavishly illustrated tome highlights what Soviet culture lost, including historic Russian icons and masterpieces by Rembrandt and Van Gogh. It also points out the “cruel irony” of a revolution-ravaged USSR looking to the capitalist West for art purchasers. Among the buyers: American billionaire Andrew Mellon, who wound up donating his Russian-bought holdings to the National Art Gallery. A book for art lovers and history buffs alike. -- The Seattle Times, gift guide selection

The plates are wonderful, each listing the work, the artist, the date of sale and the purchaser. The accompanying text adds much more context.Yes, you may be thinking, we know some of this — but not all, not in such detail, not so comprehensively discussed and documented. It would make a wonderful gift to someone this Christmas season. -- Judith H. Dobrzynski, Real Clear Arts blog