Dmitry Stelletsky (1875-1947)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
Dmitry Stelletsky (1875-1947)

La Nuit de St Jean

Dmitry Stelletsky (1875-1947)
La Nuit de St Jean
signed 'STELLETSKI' (lower left); with number '248' (on the reverse), inscribed with title (on the stretcher), further signed 'STELLETSKI' (on a label attached to the stretcher); further inscribed 'Ce tableau "La Nuit de St Jean"/est donné par moi à Madame Annette/Bietta et à sa fille Yvonne Clorinde Torelli./24 Novembre 1945. Dm. Stelletsky' (on a label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
23¾ x 49½ in. (60.5 x 126 cm.)
A gift from the artist to Mrs Annette Bieta.
By descent to the previous owner.
Exhibition catalogue, Exposition d'art russe, Paris, 1932, listed p. 43, no. 248.
Paris, Galerie 'La Renaissance', Exposition d'art russe, 1932, no. 248 (number on the reverse).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Aleksandra Babenko
Aleksandra Babenko

Lot Essay

Captured in the midst of merriment, their faces flushed and lit by the bonfire's light, Stelletsky's participants depicted here are immersed in the celebration of the day-long festival honouring Ivan Kupala, one of the oldest and most riotously celebrated holidays in Russia at this time. With its roots in the pagan tradition, Ivanov Day (as the festival is commonly known) was linked to the summer solstice and devoted to the pagan god Kupala. Following the adoption of Christianity, the celebration was maintained in recognition of the birth of John the Baptist on 7 June (24 June in the Julian calendar). The celebrations of Ivan Kupala began the morning of the preceding day and continued through the night, during which participants stayed awake, warding off evil spirits who threatened to abduct people in their sleep. The celebrations were accompanied by various ceremonies that included witch hunts, purifying baths, fortune-telling and jumping over bonfires.

In Stelletsky's painting, the horizontal structure of the composition allows the artist to convey the scale of the festivities. The juxtaposition of repetitive rhythms created by the encounter of vertical elements, such as the tree trunks in the background, with the chaotic movement of the crowd in the foreground imbues the picture with a sense of dynamic festivity. The growing fern in the foreground is a specific attribute of the festival due to its association with an ancient legend, according to which ferns wouldblossom with scarlet flowers once a year, during the night of Ivan Kupala. By legend, whoever managed to pick these blooms would be granted magical powers.

In the context of a revived interest in Russian folk art at the beginning of the 20th century, Stelletsky was inspired to develop the theme of Old Russia throughout his artistic oeuvre. After moving to St Petersburg in 1896 with his family and enrolling in the Imperial Academy of Arts, the young artist became increasingly interested in Russian folk art and undertook a number of trips to ancient Russian towns with the aim of studying Russia's cultural heritage. Stelletsky went on to become a great connoisseur of Russian art history and actively promoted Russian culture abroad following his emigration to France in 1914.

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