Artist
© Sputnik / Sergey Malgavko
A postage stamp with special cancellation issued ahead of the celebration of 200 years since painter Ivan Aivazovsky's birth.
A 19th-century shipwreck found near Crimea is believed to hold treasures: paintings by renowned marine artist Ivan Aivazovsky. He was one of Russia's most famous painters, with works now selling for over $1 million.

The steamship General Kotzebue sank after colliding with another vessel near Cape Tarkhankut on April 16, 1895. It was discovered 120 years later, lying at a depth of 40 meters at the bottom of the Black Sea. Divers from Russia's Neptune underwater expedition studied its remains and found 10 fragments of paintings among what remained of the vessel's expensive décor.

Underwater video released by the expedition shows artworks covered by a layer of silt that hides what's on them, but scientists have a theory.

"The General Kotzebue was one of the first ships to sail through the Suez Canal [in 1869] and Aivazovsky was invited aboard to [depict] the historic moment," Roman Dunaev, the head of the Neptune expedition, told Govorit Moskva.

Aivazovsky often gave sketches or even sets of finished paintings to the crews of ships he traveled on, and "chances are that we're dealing with this collection," he added. The work to recover the paintings has been halted at the moment over fears they may be damaged. According to Dunaev, it will resume in June at the earliest.

Some of the paintings could be well preserved, as "silt is a good conserving agent," he said. However, to establish their actual condition the silt will have to be removed.

Aivazovsky is one of the most famous Russian artists of the 19th century. He's also one of the most prolific, producing more than 6,000 works during his 60-year career.

His seascapes and battle scenes, which have been exhibited around the globe, are steadily rising in value at auctions. In 2012, Aivazovsky's 'View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus' was sold at Sotheby's for $5.2 million, with many other paintings fetching more than $1 million.