Pavel Tchelitchew (Russian, 1898-1957) Moonlight battle scene, for Rimsky-Korsakov's Coq d'Or, Berlin, 1923 sheet: 47 x 63cm (18 1/2 x 24 13/16in).; sight: 40.5 x 61cm. (15 15/16 x 24in).
Lot 48
Pavel Tchelitchew (Russian, 1898-1957) Moonlight battle scene, for Rimsky-Korsakov's Coq d'Or, Berlin, 1923 sheet: 47 x 63cm (18 1/2 x 24 13/16in).; sight: 40.5 x 61cm. (15 15/16 x 24in).
£7,000 - 9,000
US$ 11,000 - 15,000

Lot Details
Pavel Tchelitchew (Russian, 1898-1957) Moonlight battle scene, for Rimsky-Korsakov's Coq d'Or, Berlin, 1923 sheet: 47 x 63cm (18 1/2 x 24 13/16in).; sight: 40.5 x 61cm. (15 15/16 x 24in).
Pavel Tchelitchew (Russian, 1898-1957)
Moonlight battle scene, for Rimsky-Korsakov's Coq d'Or, Berlin, 1923
inscribed 'II act' in Cyrillic on the upper margin of the work and 'II act' in German on the lower margin, outside the painted area; the verso with atelier stamp
gouache and silver-coloured speckles on card
sheet: 47 x 63cm (18 1/2 x 24 13/16in).; sight: 40.5 x 61cm. (15 15/16 x 24in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Estate of the artist
    With Richard Nathanson, London
    Purchased from the above by the present owner in January 1977

    EXHIBITED:
    London, The Alpine Club, W1, arranged by Richard Nathanson, Pavel Tchelitchew 1898-1957: A Collection of Fifty-four Theatre Designs c. 1919-1923, 13-22 December, 1976, no. 54

    LITERATURE:
    R. Nathanson, Pavel Tchelitchew 1898-1957: A Collection of Fifty-four Theatre Designs c. 1919-1923, The Alpine Club, London, 1976, exhibition catalogue, p.35, no. 54, illustrated

    Tchelitchew's work in Berlin was enthusiastically received and widely influenced German stage designers during the mid-1920s. In 1923, he was commissioned by The Berlin State Opera to create sets and costumes for the Rimsky-Korsakov opera, Coq d'Or. Realistic stage designs and obvious settings never interested Tchelitchew, instead 'under his hand, the stage possessed no limitation to the visual exploitation of the theme, and [became] a universe in which any event could be given form.' (D. Windham, Dance Index, New York, 1944, p.4) The splendour of the designs for Coq d'Or fully attests to this.

    Often his designs for Coq d'Or were compared to an earlier production, Savonarola, where one could easily detect the strong influences of Cubism and Russian Constructivism. 'It is significant that during his years in Berlin, Tchelitchew was friendly with one of the leading Constructivists, El Lisssitzky, then living in the German capital.' (J. Thrall Soby, Tchelitchew: Paintings: Drawings, New York, 1942, p.11) Though being stripped of the heaviness which dominated Savonarola, the designs for Coq d'Or still emphasized distinct geometrical forms, only serving a different purpose this time. Tchelitchew was not merely creating designs that would support the action on the stage, but was striving to dictate the entire tone and movement of the production. Coq d'Or was not a drama but a folktale adapted into a political satire, a fable of 'the Tzar who forgot his kingdom and caroused with the ladies of the court while a Golden Cockerel kept watch for him over his troubled country.'(D. Windham,1944, p.7) Hence, all shapes and forms were rounded, eliminating the sharp edges of the heavy cubes present in Savonarola: '[...] everything becomes stuffed, upholstered and cushioned, with balls bursting out of bosoms and buttocks.' (L. Kirstein, Tchelitchew, Santa Fe, 1994, p.31) The genius of Tchelitchew was such that his geometry was able to convey the whole spectrum of emotions, proving to the public that imagination knows no limits.

    Meanwhile, the budget for Coq d'Or seemed to have no limits as well. Tchelitchew did not want to compromise the implementation of his designs and he used his energy and powers of persuasion to secure the budget of four seasons for one opera. The result of his efforts proved that theatrical magic was very much still alive. The magic came as a much-needed remedy for the difficult times experienced by Russian expatriates and inspired them to laugh and detach themselves from the historic disaster of their native land, to revel in the sheer fantasy of being (ironically) alive...

    Unfortunately, documentation of Tchelitchew's productions is extremely limited and this alone makes these set designs a great discovery for the contemporary market. 'Never have his designs been merely easel paintings intended for enlargement, but on the contrary they have always presented those ideas in Tchelitchew's visual conception of the world which were peculiarly suited to three dimensional presentation.' (D. Windham, 1944, p.5) The designs for Coq d'Or are no exception; they are more reminiscent of vibrant collages where every shape and form can be detached or moved at the whim of the designer rather than a solidified realistic setting that only serves as a background for action. The presence of such media as silver and gold-coloured speckles in combination with bright colours links these designs with peasant folk prints and gaudy carnivalesque events, where absurdity and reality meet each other on equal terms. With just a glance one can easily grasp the silliness, naivety and humour that are present in these almost cartoonish set designs as well as catch a glimpse of the extravagant fairytale which brings difficult political truths to light.
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