5 June 2013
Courtyard of the Tilla-Kari Mosque, signed and dated 1924, also further signed and inscribed "Opera da me eseguita a Samarcand (Oriente)/La mosckea "Tilla Cari" on the reverse.
Oil on cardboard, 71.5 by 83.5 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert I. Geraschenko.
Exhibited: Possibly, The Russian Art Exhibition, Grand Central Palace, New York, USA, 1924, No. 275.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, The Russian Art Exhibition, New York, Grand Central Palace, 1924, possibly listed under No. 275.
Courtyard of the Tilla Kari Mosque in Samarkand is a notable example of the uniting of two distinct periods of Alessio Issupoff’s creative development. On the one hand, we can identify a strong Impressionist influence; a result of the artist’s training at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under the renowned Russian Impressionist, Konstantin Korovin. On the other, the subject of this painting is distinctly Orientalist, a consequence of Issupoff’s exposure to the customs and way of life of Central Asia, to which he travelled during the First World War and remained until 1921 carrying out a Soviet commission to restore and safeguard monuments and objects of cultural heritage.
This work depicts the entrance to the famous Tilla Kari Mosque, one of the most important madrasahs or Islamic theological seminaries in Samarkand, whose creation dates to around 1646. Tilla Kari was conceived as the largest and most decorative structure of the Registan, at the heart of the city, and its name means “gold-covered”, referring to the lavish gilding of its domed chamber.
The truly breath-taking impression created by the top-down perspective of Courtyard of the Tilla Kari Mosque highlights the imposing scale of the madrasah. This is further accentuated by the strong contrast between the intense blue of the sky and the luminous sun-lit stone structure. At the same time, elements of the mosque’s decoration, such as the rich blues of the mosaic, recall the colour of the sky, thus imparting a sense of harmony to the scene. In the shadow of the massive stone structure swarms a colourful throng, drawn as if by a magnet towards the main entrance of the mosque, emphasising the building’s religious importance as well as its significance as a cultural centre for the local community. The crowd is depicted with incredible dynamism, achieved by the use of short, bold brushstrokes and a diverse palette, the combination of which creates a kaleidoscope-like effect.
Issupoff’s striking canvas indisputably does justice to this building, which is of such profound importance for the cultural and religious history of the region. It is also a shining example of the remarkable skill of this artist, who, having absorbed the lessons of his famous teacher, with time and exposure to new environments, went on to develop his own deeply lyrical and vibrant style of which this painting is a superb manifestation.
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.