Anatomy of an Artwork: Konstantin Yuon's The Kremlin at Night

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Konstantin Yuon’s The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich was executed in the mid-1910s, the artist’s most sought-after period. Dominated by the majestic ecclesiastical and secular buildings of the Kremlin, this historical painting commemorates the coronation of the first Romanov Tsar in 1613. Exhibited twice in Russia in the early 1910s, it will be offered in Sotheby’s Russian Pictures sale on Tuesday 6th June.

Click through to learn more about this fascinating work.

Russian Pictures
6 June 2017 | London

Anatomy of an Artwork: Konstantin Yuon's The Kremlin at Night

  • Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. Estimate £400,000-600,000.
  • Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. Estimate £400,000-600,000.
    Yuon and Moscow



    Born in 1875 in Moscow to a family of Swiss descent, Yuon often looked to the architecture of the city for inspiration. In the 1910s he produced rigorously topographical and architecturally detailed studies of Moscow as preludes to his paintings. ‘Moscow has played a very important part in my artistic career. It was in Moscow that I started to paint: Moscow nurtured my basic interests and formed my taste’ (Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, Moscow, 1982, p.243).

  • Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. Estimate £400,000-600,000.
    The Moscow Kremlin



    The site of the Moscow Kremlin has been the spiritual and secular centre of the Muscovy state since the 14th century. Here Yuon depicts Cathedral Square which is the location of several significant buildings within the Kremlin walls. Easily recognisable in this architecturally accurate painting are: (from left to right) the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, the Annunciation Cathedral, the Palace of the Facets, and the Dormition Cathedral.



     

  • Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. Estimate £400,000-600,000.
    The Romanov Dynasty



    Inspired by the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty the year before, Yuon turned to the subject of the coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich on 21st February 1613, which ended the so-called ‘Time of Troubles’ that followed the death of Tsar Boris Godunov in 1603. The painting was also inspired by his work on a Diaghilev production of Boris Godunov in 1913 and the composition bears a strong resemblance to his set design for the second scene of the prologue, in which Godunov is also crowned.

  • Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. Estimate £400,000-600,000.
    The Palace of the Facets



    One of the oldest civic buildings in Moscow, the Palace of the Facets served as a great hall for holding state ceremonies, celebrations and for receiving foreign ambassadors. Built by Italian architects between 1487 and 1491, the Renaissance influenced palace derived its name from the four-faceted diamond-shaped bricks decorating the facade. Russia’s Grand Princes, Tsars and Emperors traditionally appeared before the people on the Red Porch and would pass down the external staircase of the Palace on their way to be crowned in the adjacent Dormition Cathedral.

  • Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. Estimate £400,000-600,000.
    The Annunciation Cathedral



    Built under the reign of Ivan III in 1484-1489, the Annunciation Cathedral was the private church of the Russian Grand Princes, Tsars and Emperors for many centuries. Unlike most other buildings commissioned by Ivan III, which were designed by Italian architects, the Cathedral was built by masters from Pskov. Thus, the façade combines elements of both Muscovite and Pskovian architecture, providing a unique example of Russian design.

  • Konstantin Fedorovich Yuon, The Kremlin at Night on the Eve of the Coronation of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. Estimate £400,000-600,000.
    The Dormition Cathedral



    Built between 1475 and 1479, the Dormition Cathedral is the oldest and most important structure on Cathedral Square. It was to here that the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church was transferred from Vladimir in 1326 and here that Russian sovereigns were crowned and patriarchs and metropolitans consecrated. In 1642 Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich issued an edict which ordered a hundred and fifty artists from various Russian towns to decorate the Cathedral.

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