- Reuters/ITAR-TASS/Presidential Press Service
In central Moscow there is a private art collection of mysterious origins guarded by an octogenarian, Nina Moleva, who says it’s filled with original works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and other Renaissance masters, according to a report by Layli Foroudi in the Moscow Times.
And ultimately, this collection will go to none other than Putin, per Moleva’s wishes.
Moleva maintains that a Paris-based auction house valued this collection with a starting price of $400 million and an estimated real value of $2 billion after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
However, there are questions regarding how exactly the octogenarian got this collection, whether it’s actually worth $2 billion, and whether these are even original works, according to Foroudi.
Moleva and her late husband, Ely Belyutin, have said that the collection comes from Belyutin’s grandfather, Ivan Grinyov, a stage artist in imperial Moscow.
He allegedly collected the works at European auctions, and then, once the Revolution rolled around, hid them in a fake attic so that Bolsheviks would not confiscate them. Four decades later, when Moleva and Belyutin moved into the place, they said they found the treasure.
All of this sounds kind of plausible – except that another journalist, Alla Shevelkina, found no evidence of an “Ivan Grinyov” in the imperial theater archives.
“Another theory for the mysterious collection’s origins is that Belyutin, who is rumored to have worked as a Soviet military intelligence officer, acquired the art during World War II when a lot of trophy art was brought back from defeated Germany,” writes Foroudi.
However, regardless of how the couple got the art, there’s reason to doubt that it’s actually worth what Moleva says it is worth.
Parisian painting expert Eric Turquin, who visited the collection with a professional from the Paris-based auction house, told Foroudi that he did not estimate the collection at $400 million, and he’d never heard the Grinyov story – but added that “it was an altogether remarkable body of religious paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries.”
In sum, the only thing that’s certain about this collection is that it is going to Vladimir Putin.
And “until recently, two policemen sat in a car 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the entrance,” of Moleva’s apartment, writes Foroudi. “A state official confirms [that the police] are there to protect the collection.”