Kustodiev’s famous 1921 portrait of the singer set against a Shrovetide carnival caused a sensation, not least due to its monumental size (fig.1). In the lower left corner, the artist depicted Chaliapin’s daughters Marina and Martha, accompanied by his personal secretary Isay Devorishchin. The girls came to pose for Kustodiev in his studio, and Marina must have brought along her toy monkey, Kino, which never left her side and became quite a celebrity in its own right. Made by the renowned German company Steiff, the toy had been given to Marina at the age of three by her father’s lawyer Yura Valkinstein. In later life, Marina recalled how she took the monkey to one of Chaliapin’s performances at the Marinksy Theatre and, as it was not appropriate for her to clap too loudly, she rebelliously applauded with Kino’s aid, so much so that the toy’s paws had to be repaired.
Kino appears in Marina's arms in the final work (fig.2), and it is presumed the present watercolour was painted by Kustodiev during the family's intimate studio sittings which took place during the summer of 1920. Kustodiev offered the drawing to his young visitor, inscribing it 'To dear Marina, in remembrance of my first acquaintance with her Kino'. A charming depiction of a cherished childhood treasure, the drawing stayed with Marina Chaliapina until 1989 when it was purchased by the present owner.
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