Pavel Tchelitchew - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Thursday, November 18, 2021 | Phillips

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  • The ballet ODE, a one-act ballet presented by Serge Diaghilev, the critic, patron, and founder of the Ballets Russes), premiered at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in Paris, June 6, 1928. The ballet was based on “Ode: A Meditation on the Majesty of God on the Occasion of an Apparition of the Aurora Borealis,” a work by the 18th century Russian scientist, writer, and poet, Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov. The libretto was adapted by Boris Kochno, the music was composed by Nicolas Nabokov, and the choreography was by Léonide Massine; the set, costumes and scenery were all created by Pavel Tchelitchew.


    Tchelitchew had been creating stage and ballet designs since 1919. In his first collaboration with the Ballets Russes in 1928, for ODE, Tchelitchew and the other artists were able to “create a form which was not strictly ballet but a spectacle capable of encompassing an Aristotelian unity of choral speech, melody, pantomime, and dance.”i


    Starting in 1925, Tchelitchew had experimented with creating simultaneous aspects of a single figure in his paintings, a technique he referred to as “laconic composition.” It entailed the melding together of two figures with common sets of heads, arms, and legs.


    This drawing, which Tchelitchew executed for the theater program cover of the ballet ODE, is a fine example of “laconic composition.” The figure in the drawing suggests the traditional image of a dancing Shiva, “the source of all universal movement.” At the same time, Tchelitchew’s drawing seems to playfully reference Leonardo da Vinci’s illustration of "Vitruvian Man,” a work that presents human proportions as perfectly balanced and unified. Tchelitchew had previously studied da Vinci’s drawings intensely and used them as starting points for other compositions. Whatever the source materials for this drawing, it successfully evokes the movements of the dance it describes. The perforations represent cosmic points of light; another metaphor of universal man.


    Text by Erik La Prade


    i Donald Windham, The Stage and Ballet Designs of Pavel Tchelitchew, Dance Index, Ballet Caravan, Inc., New York, vol. III, Nos. 1, 2, January–February 1944, p. 10.

    • Provenance

      Gifted by the artist to the present owner


Study for a cover of the theater program for the Ballet Russes

signed "P. Tchelitchew." lower right of the image; indistinctly inscribed and dated "... 1928" lower right
watercolor, ink paper collage and artist's perforations on paper
19 x 13 3/4 in. (48.3 x 34.9 cm)
Executed in 1928.

We would like to thank Erik La Prade for his assistance in cataloguing this work.

Full Cataloguing

$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $31,500

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session, New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York Auction 18 November 2021