Roerich Nicholas, Corona Mundi, 1921

Nicholas ROERICH

(Saint-Petersburg, 1874 – 1947, Naggar)

Corona Mundi


Tempera on canvas, 143 x 91 cm

Signed with artist’s monogram (lower right), verso with affixed label on stretcher ‘172 Corona Mundi / Crown of the World / NR’, stretcher bars and interior of the frame inscribed with additional numbers, frame with applied sticker with number ‘186’


Nicholas Roerich was an artist of German origin, writer, archaeologist, philosopher and traveller. One of the brightest representatives of symbolism and modernism, his legacy is enormous. More than 7,000 paintings are exhibited in famous art galleries in different parts of the world.

At an early age he showed a curiosity and talent for a variety of activities. When he was nine, a noted archeologist came to conduct explorations in the region and took young Roerich on his excavations of the local tumuli. The adventure of unveiling the mysteries of forgotten eras with his own hands sparked an interest in archeology that would last his lifetime. Through other contacts he developed interests in collecting prehistoric artifacts, coins, and minerals, and built his own arboretum for the study of plants and trees.

Roerich left Russia in 1917. He lived and worked in Scandinavia and England. In 1920 the Roerichs immigrated to the United States. In 1923 Roerichs’ longtime dream came true when they embarked on their Central Asian tour, visiting India, Chinese Turkestan, Altai, Mongolia and Tibet. Nicholas wrote about this expedition in his book ‘Heart of Asia’, in which he described these mysterious lands and peoples. Nevertheless, the images are nowhere as vivid as in the paintings that resulted from the expedition. In 1928, the family settled in the Indian Kullu Valley in the Himalayan foothills. Here they established the headquarters of the Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute, which carried out botanical and ethnological-linguistic studies and the exploration of archaeological sites. In 1929 the University of Paris nominated Roerich for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nicholas Roerich repeatedly returned to the image of Tree of Life, tracing its significance to early apocalyptic visions and medieval religious teachings. He wrote: ‘Before the war there were dreams…Saint Prokopiy spoke: do not abandon the Earth. The Earth is fiery hot, scorched by evil. The heat tests the roots of the Tree of Life, but Good weaves holy nests in its branches up above…Guard the Tree of Life, for it is where Good dwells. The Earth is the source of sorrow, but from sorrow grows joy…’ For Roerich, the Tree of Life therefore came to symbolize man himself, who according to Roerich, should constantly be conscious of bringing together the divine and the earthly. As an artist and philosopher, Roerich always sought to find the balance between the present, physical world and the ephemeral, metaphysical one. ‘Corona Mundi’ therefore embodies the artist’s lifelong philosophy to unite the earthly world with the spiritual.

Condition report:

The painting is in very good condition.


N. Roerich Museum, New York. c. 1921;

Collection of Nettie & Louis Horch, c. 1935;

Acquired from the above by a private American collector, c. 1989;

by descent to the present owner, 1990;

Swedish private collection;

Important private collection, Zürich, Switzerland


Roerich Museum Catalogue, 8th edition, New York: Roerich Museum, 1930, page 17, no 172;

The Architectural Record, New York, 1921, August, cover illustration


In 1920, the Chicago Art Institute invited Roerich to tour some of his most significant works throughout the United States. ‘Corona Mundi,’ or ‘Crown of the World,’ was one of 400 works the artist chose to bring on this travelling exhibition. The painting executed in 1921 is remarkably complex in its symbolic language and in its artistic message

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