The Khan’s Bride, signed with initials and dated “1903, 1924”.
Pencil and watercolour on cardboard, 31.5 by 25 cm.
Provenance: Collection of Ambassador Charles Richard Crane, USA.
Ivan Bilibine’s graphic work The Khan’s Bride, here at auction, and the four other pieces offered for auction on 28 November, come
from the famous collection of Charles Richard Crane (1858–1939), who, over the years of his travels and diplomatic missions, put together one of the world’s best collections of art from various countries, including Russia.
The name of the distinguished Russian graphic artist Ivan Bilibine is inseparably linked with the appearance and development of a new mode of book illustration. In 1900 Bilibine joined the World of Art group of artists (Mir iskusstva) and participated in almost all the exhibitions put on by the eponymous journal. The artist was unbelievably popular and sought after not only in Russia but also beyond her borders, and illustrations for Russian fairytales of that time are invariably associated with the name of this Miriskusnik.
The artist’s inimitable graphic style took the brilliant delicacy of Art Nouveau and embellished it in an original way with Russian ornamental details. Constituting a harmonious array, these are an
integral component of practically every one of the artist’s illustrations. Ivan Bilibine’s watercolours are characterised by impeccable taste, knowledge of ethnographic peculiarities and undoubted mastery of composition. Exquisite brushwork in each wash of colour is a feature of Bilibine’s style which underwent certain changes in the mid-1920s. Due to the handling of tone and colour in figures and objects and the delineation of elements, volume later appears which has the effect of enlivening the characters and the composition
as a whole. The drawing becomes more refined and the colouring less straightforward but richer, imbued with the most delicate tints, lending the work poetry and harmony.
The Khan’s Bride belongs to the very beginning of the artist’s exile – his Cairo period, when Bilibine was particularly interested in motifs inspired by oriental tales and legends. This astonishing work is distinguished by the intricacy of its workmanship, achieving a rare
perfection that guarantees its importance in a collection.