Russian ballet in spotlight at ArtMaximum auction March 3

Russian ballet

‘Comoedia illustré’ magazine, issue 17, 1911. ArtMaximum image

HAMBURG, Germany – Auction house ArtMaximum will hold its first auction on March 3. The collection includes publications on ballet and theater, autographs of prominent representatives of Russian and Soviet culture, manuscripts and photographs, antique books, as well as subjects related to the Soviet underground. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

The triumphant ascent of Russian ballet began in the early 20th century when the legendary impresario Sergei Diaghilev initiated to acquaint Europe with the latest achievements of modern Russian culture. The turning point was Ballets Russes of 1909. There was great success for five ballet premieres: Le Pavillon d’Armide, Polovtsian Dances, Le Festin, Les Sylphides and Cléopâtre on the stage of Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

“Russian dancers themselves may not be aware of the mystical nature of their dances. But we felt it, so their performances became a revelation for us,” one of the leading French newspapers wrote with admiration.

Dancers Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky and choreographer Michel Fokine became the world stars. ArtMaximum’s collection includes bulletins and leaflets of Ballets Russes, programs of Pavlova’s performances in London’s Palace, issues of French magazine Comoedia illustré with publications on the Russian ballet and also first editions of leading Russian ballet masters works: The Book of rejoicing by Akim Volynsky, Paths of a Balletmaster by Fyodor Lopukhov, Modern dance by Alexei Sidorov, Modern ballet by Valerian Svetlov with illustrations by Leon Bakst, The Basics of Classical Dance by Agrippina Vaganova with her autograph, finally Serge Lifar’s Traite de Choregraphie signed by famous dancer.

Russian ballet

Serge Lifar (autograph), ‘Traite de choregraphie,’ 1952. ArtMaximum image

The famous Taganka theater in Moscow, led by director Yuri Lyubimov, was one of the mouthpieces of the Khrushchev’s Thaw and the freedom outpost at the subsequent era of Brezhnev’s stagnation. They were Lyubimov’s performances where prominent artists Vladimir Vysotsky, Alla Demidova, Valery Zolotukhin and many others played their major roles. Programs of the most important performances became the real jewels of the collection.

Some subjects in the catalog are associated with world-famous composers. The photograph of Dmitry Shostakovich with his inscription, handwritten letter of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, books with autographs of Alexander Glazunov, Sergei Taneyev and Eduard Napravnik.

Russian ballet

Photographic picture of Russian composer and pianist Dmitry Dmitrievich Shostakovich with his autograph, 1947. ArtMaximum image

The little camels of the sky by Elena Guro (1913) is one of the most famous books of the Russian avant-garde in its early period. An untimely death prevented Guro from fully revealing her many talents. Natalia Goncharova was destined to become famous and a true “icon” of Russian and world avant-garde art – her lithographs (illustrations to the works of Alexei Kruchenykh) deserve close attention.

Children’s book publishing in the USSR has experienced a real boom in the 1920-1930s. Many books published in those years are polygraphic masterpieces, the product of joint creativity of writers and artists. Though mass-produced they have not survived in large numbers, especially in fine condition.

Russian ballet

Miller, Y. [Zabolotsky, N.A.]. ‘Civil war,’ 1931. ArtMaximum image

Brilliant examples of Soviet children’s book are in the auction lineup: The fire by Samuil Marshak illustrated by Vladimir Konashevich, Mr. Goodwrench by the same author with illustrations by Alexei Pakhomov, The shepherd & the cuckoo birds by Vitaly Bianki with illustrations by Vera Ivanova and the rare The Red Army parade with wonderful pictures by Alexander Deineka.
Russian ballet

Marshak, S.; Konashevich V., ‘Wildfire,’ 1931. ArtMaximum image

For more information contact ArtMaximum Auction house at +49 (0) 40 3501 9365 or