Thursday - 30 October 2014

Benois’ set design at record £195,000

05 December 2011Written by ATG Reporter

A HIGHLIGHT of the autumn Russian art series in London was Sotheby's sell-out 127-lot sale of works from the family of Alexander Benois (1870-1960), a name synonymous with the Ballet Russes.

The collection, offered on November 29, comprising ballet, opera set and costume designs, watercolour views of Russia, France and Italy, book illustrations, sketchbooks, and family portraits represented the largest collection of works by Benois to be offered for sale in recent history.

Every lot sold for a double-estimate total just shy of £1.6m.

In creating his renowned sets, Benois drew inspiration from foreign cultures and the decorative arts as illustrated by the top-selling lot of the sale, the 2ft 1in x 3ft 7in (63 x 1.09m) 1914 watercolour and pencil set design for the second act of Igor Stravinsky's Le Rossignol, which depicts the Emperor's Palace.

Benois later wrote: "The sea and landscape of the first act, the throne-room and the golden bedroom in the Emperor's palace, gave me an opportunity to express all my infatuation with Chinese art. The final result was a chinoiserie de ma façon, far from accurate by pedantic standards but undoubtedly appropriate to Stravinsky's music. On the whole I consider Le Rossignol one of my most successful productions."

Buyers agreed as the set design sold for £195,000, almost five times its top estimate of £50,000, and established a new auction record for a set design by Benois.

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