1870, St. Petersburg - 1960, Paris

Commedia dell’ arte


The events in Commedia dell’ Arte take place in France during the reign of Louis XIV. The actors are performing scenes from the play The Indiscreet Punchinello on an open stage in Versailles park. The original composition of the picture is dynamic and vivid; the silhouettes of the figures are fantastical and expressive, their rhythm intricate and fanciful. The thick, rich colours and the effects of illumination intensify the theatrical nature of the scene. Benois brilliantly succeeds in conveying the spirit of an Italian commedia dell’ arte, with its bright pageantry and buffoonery. Russian Museum: From Icons to the Modern Times. Palace Editions, St Petersburg, 2015. P. 256.

The picture recalls an episode from the burlesque comedy Punchinello. On the proscenium there is the dimly - lit angular figure of an old man getting down on his knees with some difficulty before a young coquette. A harlequin purpose fully moves towards the footlights shouting witticisms and slander. The hero and trouble - maker, Punchinello, gently dances on the spot, dressed in a robe. The conceited Captain, with a sword under his coat, sneaks up indignantly. All three comment on what is happening by the use of grimaces and buffoon - like movements. The sometimes brightly blazing and sometimes gently glimmering golden, red and green colours heighten the sense of the festive magic of the scene. The world of the old, slightly naïve and farcical commedia dell' arte appeared in Benois' work in all its fascination and refined craftsmanship, an echo of majestic epochs lost forever. Play and Passion in Russian Fine Art. St-Petersburg. 1999. P. 154.

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