Horse: Patriarchatus Alexandrini

Horse: Patriarchatus Alexandrini
signed, titled, inscribed, numbered and dated 'Horse: Patriarchatus Alexandrini 2008 2⁄6 W Kentridge' (on a fabric label sewn to the reverse); signed 'Kentridge' (on a fabric label sewn to the reverse)
handwoven mohair tapestry
106 ¼ x 141 ¾in. (270 x 360cm.)
Executed in 2008, this work is number two from an edition of six
Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
C. Basualdo, (ed.), William Kentridge Tapestries, Philadelphia 2008, p. 111.
Zürich, Museum Haus Konstruktiv, William Kentridge, The Nose, 2015, pp. 186 and 230 (illustrated in colour, pp. 186-187; detail illustrated in colour, pp. 188-189).

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Lot Essay

‘They started off as two dimensional black torn shapes of horses in paper, which became three dimensional table top equestrian sculptures, and later they were the basis of a large scale tapestries of the Nose on his horse going through different European countries’ — William Kentridge

Horse: Patriarchatus Alexandrini (2008) is a monumental tapestry that exemplifies William Kentridge’s masterful ability to interweave art, history, music, politics and literature upon one palimpsestic surface. The immersive embroidery, which spans over three and a half metres in width, forms part of the artist’s series The Nose, a diverse array of preparatory works created for his production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s eponymous 1928 opera, performed at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in 2010. The satire—first performed at Leningrad’s Maly Opera Theatre in 1930, and based on the original novella written by Nikolai Gogol in 1836—tells the absurd story of a St. Petersburg official who wakes one morning to find that his nose has left his face to live a life of its own. In the present tapestry, Kentridge stitches layers of meaning. His noble subject denotes the horse acquired by the nose on his incredible roaming adventures across Europe, while also conjuring rich histories of heroic ancient equestrian statues, St Petersburg’s Bronze Horseman, which is an emblem for the city, and Soviet depictions of Stalin.

Since 2001, Kentridge has collaborated with Marguerite Stephens’ tapestry studio. Each large-scale piece begins with a collage of torn black paper fragments, spliced atop reproductions of nineteenth-century maps to create striking silhouettes reminiscent of compositions by Russian avant-garde artists El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich. Working closely with Stephens and a team of master weavers, Kentridge subverts the traditionally flat cartographic surface, building intricate textures of fine, hand-spun mohair felt, and almost calligraphic red embroidery. Fusing South African craft with Russian literary and artistic traditions, Kentridge’s exuberant technical process speaks to his own layered biography. Set amongst his multi-media practice, the tapestries are integral to the artist’s career-spanning commitment to depicting and understanding a world in transition.

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