62
62
Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon
THE KREMLIN AT NIGHT ON THE EVE OF THE CORONATION OF TSAR MIKHAIL FEDOROVICH
Estimate
400,000600,000
LOT SOLD. 728,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
62
Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon
THE KREMLIN AT NIGHT ON THE EVE OF THE CORONATION OF TSAR MIKHAIL FEDOROVICH
Estimate
400,000600,000
LOT SOLD. 728,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Russian Pictures

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Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon
1875-1958
THE KREMLIN AT NIGHT ON THE EVE OF THE CORONATION OF TSAR MIKHAIL FEDOROVICH
signed in Cyrillic l.r.; further bearing a Soyuz russkikh khudozhnikov exhibition label on the stretcher
oil on canvas
81 by 116.5cm, 32 by 45 3/4 in.

Executed in 1914
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Provenance

L.G. Mark, Moscow
Private collection, Stockholm
Sotheby's London, Icons, Russian Pictures and Works of Art, 24 November 1992, lot 73
Sotheby's London, Russian Art Evening, 9 June 2008, lot 33
Private collection, Europe
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Moscow, XII vystavka kartin Soyuza russkikh khudozhnikov, 1914-1915, no.219
Petrograd, XII vystavka kartin Soyuza russkikh khudozhnikov, 1915, no.276

Literature

Katalog XII vystavki kartin Soyuza russkikh khudozhnikov, Moscow, 1914, p.17, no.219 listed
Katalog XII vystavki kartin Soyuza russkikh khudozhnikov, Petrograd, 1915, p.18, no.276 listed
A.Koiranskii, K.F. Yuon, Petrograd: A.E. Kogan, 1918, p.74 listed under works from 1914 (in the collection of L.G. Mark, Moscow)
N.Tretyakov, Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1957, p.106 listed under works from 1914 (in a private collection, Stockholm)
K.Yuon, Moskva v moem tvorchestve, Moscow: Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1958, p.39 illustrated b/w
Yu.Osmolovsky, Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, Moscow: Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1982, p.227 listed under works from 1914 (in a private collection, Stockholm)

Catalogue Note

The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich combines several of the main themes in Konstantin Yuon's oeuvre: his love for his native Moscow; his interest in ancient sacred architecture; and his interest in the stage.

With its backdrop of onion domes, steeply angled cathedrals at the wings, and impressive throng gathered centre stage, it is no coincidence that the painting immediately brings to mind a set design, the whole scene dramatically lit from both the front and behind. The picture was in fact directly inspired by Yuon's research for and work on a production of Boris Godunov in 1913, and is closely related to his design for the second scene of the prologue during which Boris Godunov is crowned Tsar (fig.2). Yuon would later give a detailed account of the history behind the painting:

The monuments of Old Moscow were indispensable material for my work at the time. For a production of Mussorgsky's opera 'Boris Godunov' in Paris in 1913 (one of Diaghilev's shows) I needed to understand the architecture of the Novodevichy Convent (...) and the Chudov Monastery (...). For other scenes of the opera I needed to get to know the architecture inside the Moscow Kremlin: the Terem Palace, the Palace of the Facets, the Red Porch, the Cathedrals of the Assumption and of the Archangel. In addition, I had to thoroughly research the records kept at the Armoury Chamber. I later also used the material I had studied in easel painting, namely in 'Easter Vigil at the Kremlin'. This painting is now in Sweden, in a private collection. (K.Yuon, Moskva v moem tvorchestve, 1956, pp.38-40).

There is no doubt that it is this painting to which Yuon is referring. Not only is the present lot used to illustrate this passage in the text (fig.3), but the provenance also corresponds to the present lot, which was in a Swedish collection before it sold in these rooms in 1992. The subject of the work and hence its title are open to some interpretation. The second scene of the opera does show a coronation, but of course that of Boris Godunov in 1598, not of Mikhail Romanov in 1613, and the solemnity of this torch-lit scene is indeed reminiscent of Orthodox Easter celebrations. The theme of the coronation of the first Romanov Tsar and the present title of the work under which Yuon also exhibited it at the 12th Union of Russian Artists exhibition the same year it was painted, were of course inspired by the lavish celebrations which had taken place all over the country the previous year to celebrate the tercentenary of Russia's ruling dynasty. This huge propaganda exercise was aimed at legitimising Russia's autocratic regime at a time when the future of the old order in Europe was far from secure. One of the leitmotifs of the celebrations was the political and social order of 17th Century Muscovy, with the focus on the god-given power of the Tsar rather than that of the State.

Despite the theatricality of the scene and Yuon's use of artistic licence, the Cathedral Square and many of its buildings are instantly recognisable even to the contemporary viewer. This can be explained by the artist's meticulous research, and it is therefore not surprising that Yuri Osmolovsky described The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich as 'history painting', even though he also comments on its resemblance to stage decoration (Y.Osmolovsky, Konstantin Yuon, 1982, p.40).

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