Stage design for St. Joanne by Bernard Show, gouache and pastel on paper Japon, laid on board, signed in Cyrillic low right. Executed for Tairov Kamernyi Theater in 1924 39x39cm. Provenance: Christie’ Paris, Jan 27, 2005, lot 279; Binoche, Hotel Druout, Paris, Apr 3, 1998, lot 3. Exhibited: Julian Barran Gallery, London, 1994, N45, illustrated on plate 17. Bibliography: “A Time to Gather… Russian Art From Foreign Private collections”, State Russian Museum, Saint-Petersburg, Palace Editions,2008, illustrated on p.23.
This gouache constitutes generalized Stenbergs' project. According to their plan, an openwork design of "steel" pipes, symmetrically on both sides heaving from the central lancet opening, formed a backdrop for all acts of the play. In some scene settings it symbolized interiors (a hall of Royal Palace, a scene of of Joan's trial ), in others - exteriors (town square with crowds of people).
Trial of Joan of Arc took place in Reims - an outline of arches at Stenbergs' scenery was intended to be associated with "Flamboyant Gothic" arches ; at the same time, "steel" pipes-columns are recalling a magnificent pipe organ, latent echoing signs of contemporary engineering designs. By combining archaic "Gothic" and "iron" in the present-tuned symmetrical construction, Stenbergs were exploiting stylistics of eclectic and elegant Art Deco which currently flourished in Europe.
In the center and on the sides of the stage were constructed stepped platforms; photographs of real play episodes give us an idea of how these constructions were used - they have increased a capacity of the space in crowded scenes, turned into a pulpit in a cathedral scene, served as a designation of a conditional dreaming space in fifth act of the play.
These photos are also showing that solemn verticality of the project was not achieved in reality due to prolonged horizontal length of the stage space; proportional ratio between sizes of the "steel" tube-columns and the lancet arch were not sustained when translated into real design decorations, as well as "steel" columns themselves turned into some kind of thin rods.
Comparison of the project and photos of the play episodes makes it safe to say that Stenbergs have dedicated their presentation to a solid artistic image in keeping with dramatic pathos of the drama "Saint Joan".
Plastic features that are typical for easel paintings - strictly sustained flatness, spectacular decorative strips of the soil and a semicircular completion of the composition- all this is giving to that gouache an independent artistic status.