Important European Collection of Russian Art, plus Other Properties

30 May 2020

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Beatrice in a Trouser Suit, Costume Design for the Film ''Les amants de Montparnasse'' by Jacques Becker

§ 20. ANNENKOV, GEORGES (1889–1974)

Beatrice in a Trouser Suit, Costume Design for the Film ''Les amants de Montparnasse'' by Jacques Becker, signed with initials and inscribed "Beatrice".

Pencil, pen and ink, watercolour and gouache heightened with gold-coloured paint on paper, 57 by 29 cm.
500–700 GBP

Executed c. 1958.

Provenance: Important private collection, Europe.

Theatre and cinema work was always one of Annenkov’s most important pursuits both before and after he had emigrated. During his long career, he worked on over 70 stage and 50 film productions as a set and costume designer, producing thousands of sheets of remarkable sketches.

The MacDougall’s auction presents several sets of these costume designs that Annenkov created in France for various stage performances and films. Especially noteworthy is the selection of works connected with the cinema of the 1940s and 1950s – particularly the sketch of a ball gown for Nelly Corradi, who played the part of Violetta Valéry in Carmine Gallone’s 1947 musical The Lady of the Camellias (La signora delle camelie), inspired by Verdi’s opera La Traviata, as well as 12 costumes for the much-acclaimed film, directed by Max Ophüls and Jacques Becker, Montparnasse 19 or The Lovers of Montparnasse (Les Amants de Montparnasse) about the life of Amedeo Modigliani. Annenkov was invited to create the images of the main characters in the film by Ophüls himself, who had collaborated effectively with the artist over many years to produce four successful feature films and one theatrical production. Later, in the book, he wrote on his dealings with the great director, Annenkov recalled that “Ophüls was one of those few directors who require that even the extras, the ‘crowd’, and the actors with walk-on parts should be selected according to the artist’s sketches. He did not think that the choice could be entrusted to an associate director or to his own assistants” (Yuri Annenkov, Max Ophüls, Moscow, MIK, 2008).

The role of Modigliani was played by one of Annenkov’s old acquaintances, Gérard Philipe, whose portrait he had painted a few years before, while the part of Modigliani’s beloved Jeanne Hébuterne was taken by Anouk Aimée. Finding himself in such a friendly environment, Annenkov felt completely free. Moreover, since he was only five years younger than Modigliani and knew the artists of early-20th-century Montparnasse at first hand, Annenkov took on the role of the director’s consultant on all artistic matters. “It was a return to my youth, spent in Paris in 1911, 1912 and 1913,” the artist recalled. “It was the Montparnasse of my past. I met Modigliani many times at that turbulent time ... Max Ophüls did not know that Montparnasse, cosmopolitan and bustling ... that Montparnasse of former days, which was, for us artists, the crucible and cradle of the École de Paris, was unfamiliar to Ophüls” (ibid., p. 346). Following the director’s death, Jacques Becker finished shooting the film, but Annenkov would forever remember that working with Ophüls on Montparnasse was the most interesting film project in his lifetime.

Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.