Putin's Painting Fetches $1.1M at Auction

APNatalya Kurnikova, owner of a Moscow art gallery, raising a toast after buying Putin's painting, right, on Saturday.
ST. PETERSBURG Ч†Vladimir Putin's first painting fetched 37 million rubles ($1.14 million) at a charity auction in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

The prime minister's picture of a frosty window made the highest price of 30 works on offer. Buyers showed support for the artists and the sale's chosen charities Ч two hospitals and a church.

"The painting shows another aspect of a great personality," said its buyer, Natalya Kurnikova.

She said she just had to buy it because of its creator and will put it on display in her Kurnikova gallery.

Organizers said the sale showed that the economic crisis has not ended some rich Russians' desire for good deeds.

"What difficulties in our country can anyone be talking about if we have generous people like this," said Igor Gavryushkin, head of the foundation that organized the auction. "No one expected such staggering results."

The auction raised 70 million rubles, more than triple the 20.5 million rubles raised last year.

Putin's work featured a frost-encrusted window framed by embroidered curtains and the Russian letter "u," for "uzor" (pattern). The 30 pictures, each featuring a different letter, were loosely based on "Christmas Eve," a story by 19th-century author Nikolai Gogol. Putin beat out other favorites, including St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko's "Blizzard," which went for 11.5 million rubles to Alexander Yevnevich, chairman of retail chain Maxidom. A work by Vadim Tulpanov, head of St. Petersburg's legislature, fetched 1.6 million rubles. A painting by soprano Anna Netrebko went for 1.1 million rubles.