Sunday, June 8, 2014

Constantin Alajálov's Drawings for Prince Obolensky

Each of these ink drawings by Constantin Alajálov features a caricature of Prince Serge Obolensky and comes from the collection of Prince and Princess Obolensky. It is tempting, therefore, to assume that at least some of these drawings depict the Princess as well. In fact, I suggested such a thing in yesterday's post as well. The problem with this conjecture is that the one drawing here that is dated, the trio in the theater box, is from 1951, making this a reasonable approximate era for all of the drawings. The Prince was twice-divorced in 1924 and then in 1932, and he did not remarry until 1971. That places these drawings smack in the middle of four bachelor decades. Yet the auction house asserts that it is the Princess peeking around the corner with Santa Claus in one of the more romantic drawings.

While the purpose of these caricatures is unstated by the auction house, at least three of them would make an excellent Christmas card design, and one seems plausible for a card toasting in the New Year. That then would suggest that these drawings are commissions created over several years, with the Santa Claus portrait paintings probably being from consecutive years. Alajálov could have met Prince Obolensky in the expatriate Russian community, or perhaps it was through a mutual association with Hilton Hotels. The Prince's Wikipedia entry also notes the interesting biographical fact that the Prince was a paratrooper with the O.S.S. during the Second World War. With a crew of only three, he captured Sardinia in 1943. Bravo!

This first drawing easily could be a New Year's card design. The female figure is similar to a painting from the collection of Prince and Princess Obolensky in yesterday's post (see below). The initials S.N. appears in many of the illustrations, but I do not know their significance. Perhaps they refer to a coat of arms or a Russian term.

This is another possible Christmas card design featuring the Prince and, according to the auction house, the Princess. This illustration of the Prince is closely related to a watercolor from the collection of Prince and Princess Obolensky in yesterday's post (see below).

It's possible that this double-profile illustration too could be the cover of a Christmas card, albeit a somewhat narcissistic one. The symmetry suggests that it might be intended as a design for both the front and back of the card, with a fold being located down the middle.

Two months earlier, this failed to sell at auction.
The Prince paints Santa in a very plausible Christmas card design.

This piece was sold two months earlier by the same auction house, but perhaps the sale fell through.

This then would have been an outstanding idea for a Christmas card the following year:

The Prince as Aladdin flying his magic carpet from New York to Moscow. Stalin would not have been amused.

The Prince in a theater box:

Note:  As you may already know, there are quite a few posts now featuring artwork by Constantin Alajálov on the blog.


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