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Live Auction: 1 December 2020 • 11:00 GMT • London
Estimate:5,000 - 7,000 GBP
Property from the Private Collection of Pat and Michael York
1874 - 1947
Costume Design for a Polovtsian Warrior in Prince Igor
inscribed in Latin m.r.
gouache over pencil on paper
Sheet: 31 by 15.5cm, 12¼ by 6in.
Framed: 51 by 37.5cm, 20¼ by 14¾in.
There is mount staining and the bottom edge of the sheet is deckled. There are pinholes with associated losses to both left corners. The paint colours have faded with time. There is a light layer of surface dirt and faint staining in places and the odd spot of scattered foxing is visible. The top part of the sheet is adhered to the mount. Framed and glazed.
Condition 9 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Studio Sale) is not applicable to this lot.
Collection of the artist Thomas Osborne Robinson (1904-1976), Northampton
Sotheby's London, Ballet and Theatre Material, 25 May 1977, lot 20
Acquired at the above sale by the present owners
V.Levitsky (ed.), Rerikh, Petrograd: Svobodnoe iskusstvo, 1916, p.217
S.Ernst, N.K. Rerikh, Petrograd: Obshchiny Sv. Evgenii, 1918, p.119 listed as being in a private collection in London
Exhibition catalogue The Diaghilev Exhibition, London: The Observer, 1954, p.14, no.5 listed
E.Yakovleva, Teatral'no-dekoratsionnoe iskusstvo N.K. Rerikha, Samara, 1996, no.36, p.118 listed
Edinburgh, The Edinburgh Festival; London, Forbes House, The Diaghilev Exhibition, 1954-1955, no.5
Costume Design for a Polovtsian Warrior in many ways repeats the widely known and much published design for Konchak [the Polovtsian Khan] created by Nicholas Roerich in 1909 for Fedor Chaliapin who sang the role in Borodin’s opera Prince Igor. It is one of five discovered costume designs for Polovtsians that Roerich created for the first staging of the opera by Diaghilev’s enterprise in Paris. The best known and first exhibited design for Konchak originally belonged to Elena Roerich, the artist’s wife; the second, in half-profile, to the singer Fedor Chaliapin; the third, to the choreographer Mikhail Fokine; the fourth, and most valuable being painted in tempera on board, was acquired from the artist by the Moscow collector Mrs Fetisova; the fifth, according to both published and unpublished lists of works by Roerich, is the design for a Polovtsian (or Polovchin) which ended up in an unnamed collection in London.
As we know the provenance of the present lot places it in the United Kingdom. Given its unfinished quality, one could suppose that it was originally intended as a reference for a make-up artist or wardrobe director to work from when creating the costume for Fedor Chaliapin in the role of the Polovtsian Khan for the Paris or London stages.
We are grateful to Dr Elena Yakovleva, art historian and senior research fellow of the Russian Institute of Art History, for providing additional catalogue information.