5 June 2019
Cleopatra's Palace, Egyptian Hall, Set Design for Rimsky-Korsakov's Opera Ballet "Mlada" , signed, inscribed in Cyrillic "Mlada" I akt" and dated "1916 g. 5. III.".
Oil and tempera on canvas, 62 by 99.5 cm.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Related literature: For the production set designs, see R. Vlasova, Konstantin Korovin. Zhizn i tvorchestvo, Leningrad, Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1970, “Korovin v teatre”, chapter 4, mentioned in the text.
M. Pozharskaia, Russkoe teatralno-dekoratsionnoe iskusstvo kontsa XIX–nachala XX veka, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1970, chapter “Golovin i Korovin”, mentioned in the text.
V. Lapshin, Khudozhestvennaia zhizn Moskvy i Petrograda v 1917 godu, Moscow, Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1983, p. 373, mentioned in the text.
Konstantin Korovin’s expressive work Cleopatra’s Palace, Egyptian Hall, now presented for auction, belongs to a series of set designs for Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera-ballet Mlada that the artist made in 1916–1917 for a production at the Bolshoi Theatre, where he then held the post of artistic designer. Owing to political events, the production never materialised, but the sketches were not forgotten: they were later used in the Soviet era for a production by the Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, with the premiere taking place on 29 September 1923 in Petrograd.
Using brisk, sweeping brushstrokes, the artist creates the luxurious, magnificent palace of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, who appeared to the opera’s main character, Prince Yaromir, in a vision. The work reflects Korovin’s artistic efforts to convey the subject he had chosen. Here there is none of the dazzling flamboyance of the emerald palace that marks the final version of the sketch: the colour range in the canvas now presented is more subtle, more refined, while the depiction of the crowd in front of the palace and the scene’s overall composition remained unchanged in the final version of the sets. As in his other theatrical works, Korovin sought, in the canvas offered, to fuse music and painting: he delicately captures the sumptuous, fantastically inventive and original musical imagery in Mlada and transfers it onto the canvas. Like Rimsky-Korsakov’s music, Korovin’s colours hypnotise, fascinate and help the audience to be carried away into the action of the opera and to live through the events taking place together with its protagonists.
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