Rostropovich Russian art collection goes home

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LONDON, Sep 17 (Reuters) A 450-piece collection of Russian art amassed by exiled cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife Galina Vishnevskaya has been sold privately and will return to Russia, a London auction house said today.

The collection of pre-revolutionary works including paintings, porcelain figures, plates, vases, ivory and glass had been due to go to auction tomorrow and Wednesday with a price tag of up to 40 million dollars.

But Sotheby's auction house said it had been acquired for a ''substantially higher'' sum by a private individual who intended to take it to Russia.

A spokeswoman declined to name the buyer but said the identity was expected to be revealed at a news conference in Moscow tomorrow.

''We are delighted that the collection is being acquired in its entirety. It is especially meaningful for our family that the new owner will bring it to Russia,'' Vishnevskaya's family said in a statement issued by Sotheby's.

The renowned cellist and his operatic soprano wife assembled the collection over 30 years after they left Russia in 1974 with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Rostropovich died earlier this year.

REUTERS SKB KP1920

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