25 - 28 November 2012 Russian Art Auctions

25 Nov 2012

Artist Index / Full Catalogue


A Group of Costume Designs for Boris Asafiev's Ballet "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai"

* 225. KHODASEVICH, VALENTINA (1894–1970)

A Group of Costume Designs for Boris Asafiev's Ballet "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai", twenty two works, four signed, others variously numbered and inscribed.

Five pencil on paper, the others pencil and gouache on paper, heightened with gold or silver, the largest measuring 41.5 by 32.5 cm and the smallest 19.5 by 12 cm.
55,000–65,000 GBP


Provenance: Acquired directly from the family of the artist.
Private collection, Europe.

A younger contemporary of Leon Bakst and Alexander Golovin and creative companion of Vladimir Tatlin and Vladimir Mayakovsky, Valentina Khodasevich has entered the history of Russian art as one of Leningrad’s best theatre designers.

She came into the theatre by chance, returning to St Petersburg from her studies in Europe and succumbing to the call of Sergei Makovsky, editor-in-chief of Apollo. She swiftly made the transition from studentship to a professional career: productions using her designs at the Theatre of Popular Comedy in Petrograd became masterpieces of slapstick and the grotesque. Khodasevich subsequently admitted that eccentricity and character were always her “hobbies”. Even in the 1930s, when she became the head artist at GATOB (the former Mariinsky Theatre), her ballet settings were striking for their innovative boldness and inventive brilliance. An unquestionably positive creative initiative in these years were the designs for Boris Asafiev’s lyrical ballet The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, which premiered on 20 September 1934.

Both the costumes and the scenery were a success. The popularity of the production later led to the decision in 1936 to stage it at the Bolshoi in Moscow. Requests came for certain things to be altered: thus several versions appeared of the pencil sketches for set designs and costumes. The present collection is a uniquely comprehensive selection of 22 drawings that fully reflect the overall artistic conception of the production. The arrangement is based on the contrast between two distinct cultures – the Slavonic and the Oriental. The Polish costume of the soloist in the mazurka and the servant is distinguished by its tonal lyricism and restrained pale blue-grey colour. On the other hand, the costumes for the Golden Horde, Girey Khan, who has kidnapped a beautiful Slav girl, and his concubines, are striking in the barbaric power of their riotous colour. The artist’s characteristic touch lends the images special expression – the final version of a Khodasevich sketch for scenery or a costume was unthinkable without the best possible perspective being chosen and the character being worked out in detail. Accordingly, this collection of large sheets, worked on in pencil and colour, not only constitutes a visually delightful series of images, but also allows the scenic scope of the production to be reconstructed.

A Group of Costume Designs for Boris Asafiev's Ballet "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai"
A Group of Costume Designs for Boris Asafiev's Ballet "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai"
A Group of Costume Designs for Boris Asafiev's Ballet "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai"

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.