Collector Gives Vladimir Putin Dodgy $2 Billion Collection of Works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Others

But is the impressive Renaissance collection even real?

Vladimir Putin will inherit a disputed collection of Renaissance art. Photo:

Guarded by police, an ordinary apartment block in Moscow’s city center is rumored to house a $2 billion art collection which reportedly includes over 1,000 works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and other Renaissance artists.

Nina Moleva, the elderly owner of the priceless treasures wants to bequeath the entire collection to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“I have left it to the president,” Moleva told the Moscow Times. “I have nothing else to say.”

Although they haven’t seen the artworks, police guards say they are there to protect the collection, a statement that was confirmed by a state official.

According to Moleva, the extraordinary collection was amassed by her late husband’s grandfather, Ivan Grinyov, a stage artist at a local theater who was a passionate collector and bought the artworks at European auctions.

This nondescript apartment building reportedly houses the priceless art. Photo: Vladimir Filonov/MT via The Moscow Times

This nondescript apartment building reportedly houses the priceless art collection.
Photo: Vladimir Filonov/MT via The Moscow Times

Moleva claims that during the Russian revolution Grinyov managed to hide the collection in the attic before the Bolsheviks seized his apartment.

In 1968, when Moleva and her husband, Ely Belyutin, won the right to move back into the flat, the artworks by Rubens, Valezquez, and van Dyck were allegedly still there.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, an evaluation carried out by Paris-based auction house Hotel Drouot estimated the collection’s starting price at $400 million, with a real value of $2 billion.

However, the collection’s authenticity has long been disputed by Moscow’s art community.

Moscow's art community disputes the collection's provenance. Photo:

Moscow’s art community disputes the collection’s provenance.

According to journalist Alla Shevelkina, the existence of Moleva’s ancestor Grinyov cannot be verified.

“Ivan Grinyov…is an invention. A painter/stage artist did not earn enough to buy art,” she said. His name cannot be found anywhere, and at that time all collectors were known.”

Valentin Dyakonov, a curator and art critic at the Russian daily Kommersant, agrees. “The collection has become a bit of a myth. It would be difficult to find such items, and nobody knows where the art came from,” he said.

When Moleva offered the collection to the Pushkin Museum, the institute declined. “I am very sure in my ideas about [the collection], the big names like Leodarno [da Vinci] and El Greco are not there,” Viktoria Markova, an Italian paintings expert at the Pushkin said. “They, and even other paintings in the collection are copies.”

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow rejected the collection amid authenticity doubts. Luc Castel via Christian Dior

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow rejected the collection amid authenticity doubts.
Luc Castel via Christian Dior

Even though the collection’s provenance and authenticity is shrouded in uncertainty, what is certain is that Vladimir Putin will be inheriting it.

The family always planned on leaving the artworks to the state, but when Moleva’s lawyers told her she had to name an individual person in her will, she wrote down the president’s name.

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