Drawing inspiration from French caricatures and Georg Emanuel Opitz’s (1775-1841) compositions mimicking the riotous behaviour of cossacks in Paris during the Allied occupation of 1814, Dobuzhinsky revisited the subject for the 1926 Balieff production of Les Cosaques de Platov à Paris at the Theatre de la Madeleine in Paris. While Ataman of the Don Cossacks, Matvei Platov (1751-1818), and his troops' military campaign played a considerable role in defeating Napoleon’s (1769-1821) forces, the gauche behaviour of Russian soldiers discovering the capital’s way of life was a frequent source of amusement to the bohemian Parisians.
The present works were previously held in the collection of Akim Tamiroff. A gifted pupil of Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938), Tamiroff spent three years with the Moscow Art Theatre studying Stanislavsky's system. In 1923, he travelled to the United States to present Anton Chekhov’s (1860-1904) plays to an American audience. Loath to return to Russia, he joined Nikita Balieff’s (1876-1936) La Chauve-Souris. There he became acquainted with the Russian artistic milieu, including Sergei Sudeikin (1882-1946) and Mstislav Dubuzhinsky and started to collect Russian theatrical art. In 1932, he made his way to California, going on to become one of the most successful Russian actors in Hollywood.
For comparable works see:
Alexandre Sementchenkoff collection; Christie's, London, 22 October 1987, lots 618-620 and 623.
V. Bezotosnyi & E. Itkina, Les cosaques à Paris, en 1814, Moscow, 2007.