Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy (Russian, 1866-1938) Portrait bust of Fedor Chaliapin
Lot 50*
Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy (Russian, 1866-1938) Portrait bust of Fedor Chaliapin
Sold for £61,250 (US$ 102,950) inc. premium
Auction Details
Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy (Russian, 1866-1938) Portrait bust of Fedor Chaliapin Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy (Russian, 1866-1938) Portrait bust of Fedor Chaliapin Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy (Russian, 1866-1938) Portrait bust of Fedor Chaliapin Paul Troubetskoy, Bronze Bust of Fedor Chaliapin
Lot Details
Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy (Russian, 1866-1938)
Portrait bust of Fedor Chaliapin
signed in Latin and stamped with foundry mark Carlo Robecchi, St. Petersburg (on the back of the right shoulder)
bronze, dark brown patina
53.5 x 56cm (21 1/16 x 22 1/16in).


    Purchased in September 1966 by Robert Merrill, baritone singer and actor with the Metropolitan Opera in New York
    Estate of Mr. Robert Merrill, 2004
    Purchased from above by a private collector, New York
    Acquired by the present owner from above, 2010

    (On loan) Metropolitan Opera, before 1966; exhibited in the gallery dedicated to legendary singers who performed at the MET

    Paolo Troubetzkoy, 1866-1938, Verbania Pallanza, Museo del Paesaggio, April 29 - July 29, 1990, page 182, illustrated
    Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; image of the sculpture in the archives

    The offered lot will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of works by Prince Troubetzkoy.

    The present sculpture is an exceptional example of a Troubetzkoy bronze and appears to have been created as single cast. It is important not only because of the quality of the cast but as a great example of the sculptor's early work, before he achieved fame in the 20th century as a fashionable society portrait artist.

    This important likeness of the legendary Russian opera singer, Fedor Chaliapin (1876-1938), was most likely modelled in 1898-1900 during Troubetzkoy's visit to Russia. The young sculptor was introduced to Chaliapin, then a young promising singer, by Savva Mamontov, a wealthy industrialist, art patron and a passionate theatre supporter. It was Savva Mamontov who discovered Chaliapin and brought him to perform in his own opera company in Moscow, and it was probably in his house that Troubetskoy was so impressed with the majestic voice of the singer. In a letter to I.E. Bondarenko, the famous Russian painter, Ilia Repin noted that Troubetskoy enjoyed listening to the singer and immediately began working on the bust: 'At that time Savva Ivanovich became friends with a sculptor, Prince Troubetzkoy, who moved into Mamontov's house. Troubetskoy made two busts: one in painted plaster and the other in bronze' (undated letter, TsGALI, Moscow). In later years (1907-1909), Troubetzkoy completed a less successful sculpture of the singer depicting Chaliapin standing nude, reminiscent of a hero from antiquity and rather uncharacteristic of the dramatic personality of the legendary singer (see the example in Verbania Pallanza, Museo del Paesaggio, Italy).

    There are only a handful of works by Troubetzkoy cast as life-size portraits and this exceptional bust of Fedor Chaliapin is an important example of the sculptor's work. The fluency of technique and free handling of terracotta modelling developed by Troubetzkoy during his student years in Italy are beautifully manifested in the final bronze cast. The sculptor's highly praised ability to capture the likenesses of his subjects and their casual spontaneity is captivating in the present work. The American art critic and enthusiast of Russian art, Christian Brinton, praised the sculptor for his unparalleled ability to capture fleeting expressions and the vitality of his subjects: 'The objects which under impress of his powerful and nervous finger-tips shape themselves so spontaneously out of wax or clay of the model before him. They are instinct with the very breath and movement of nature and convey to us an incomparable sense of vitality. The desire to depict life is the keynote of Prince Troubetskoy's art'. (Catalogue of Sculpture by Prince Troubetskoy exhibited by the American Numismatic Society at the Albright Art Gallery, March 27-April 27, 1911, page 66-67). In all Troubetzkoy's works the individualization of each model was achieved to a degree that was nothing short of phenomenal. Brinton continues: 'This art in its every manifestation is essentially refined, eclectic and cosmopolitan. In its modernity of theme and treatment, its energy yet delicacy of expression, and above all in that quality of nervous sensibility which it possesses in such a high degree, it can scarcely fail to enlist the aesthetic sympathies of our cultured public'. These exceptional qualities of the sculptor's work remain highly praised even today.
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  1. Daria Chernenko
    Specialist - Russian Paintings and Works of Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, W1S 1SR
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 207 468 8338
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