Russian Toys

Alexander BENOISИгрушки [Igrushki /Toys]. First & Second Series, all published.

(Saint Petersburg, N. Kadushin for the Russian Red Cross, 1904).

The two series of 6 colour illustrated postcards issued to benefit the St. Evgenya Red Cross Society, 90 x 144 mm., in the incredibly rare publisher’s colour pictorial envelopes, housed in a custom-made box by designer bookbinder Clara Gevaert. Each card illustrated in colour lithography by Alexandre Benois. Complete.

First and only edition of the complete set of 12 postcards designed by the famed Russian artist before the Revolution.

Among his many other interests, Alexander Benois was a passionate collector of hand-made folk toys. He began buying them in the 1890s and soon became one of the leading experts in the field. Bakst studied Benois toys when he was working on his costume designs for the 1903 ballet Feya kukol [The Doll Fairy]. Benois encouraged Georgii Narbut to collect them too; and Benois’ collection inspired Narbut’s two picture books called Igrushki (1910), the first was appropriately dedicated to Benois.

Alexander Benois, Russian in full Aleksandr Nikolayevich Benois, (1870, St. Petersburg – 1960, Paris), Russian theatre art director, painter, and ballet librettist who with Léon Bakst and Serge Diaghilev cofounded the influential magazine Mir Iskusstva (World of Art), from which sprang the Diaghilev Ballets Russes. Benois aspired to achieve a synthesis of new Western European trends and certain elements of traditional Russian folk art; Mir Iskusstva, established in 1899 in St. Petersburg, attacked the low artistic standards of the realist Peredvezhniki Society and the deadening influence of the Russian Academy and stressed individualism and artistic personality. The magazine, which he coedited until 1904, soon exerted great influence on stage design. Benois began his career (c. 1901) at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, as scenic designer for the ballets Sylvia and Cupid’s Revenge. When the Diaghilev Ballets Russes opened in 1909, Benois designed decor and costumes for, among others, Les Sylphides (1909), Giselle (1910), and Petrushka (1911), on which he collaborated with Igor Stravinsky. His later works include grand designs for La Valse (1929, Ida Rubinstein Company), The Nutcracker (1940, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo), and Graduation Ball, for which he also wrote the libretto (1957, London Festival Ballet). Among his writings are Reminiscences of the Ballets Russes (1941) and Memoirs (1960). Benois’s collaboration with Stravinsky and Michel Fokine presented some of the greatest dance drama in history and helped found modern ballet (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Very rare indeed.

Minor defects to the envelopes, the postcards in fine condition

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