CHARLEMAGNE, Adolf Iosifovich (1826 – 1901). Benefice dAdieu de Madame Naptal. [St Petersburg: 16th February 1873].
Unique, exquisite silver and pictorial tribute in book form dedicated to actress Madame Naptal-Arnault, celebrating in 16 fine painted tableaux her iconic interpretations as a lasting contribution to Russian theatre between 1857-1873. The engravings to the rear of the fine silver case list the names of the most notable patrons of the arts in St Petersburg at the time, who contributed to this homage – heading the list, the Czar’s brother, Grand Duke Vladimir, President of the Academy of Fine Arts, patron of many artists and sponsor of the Imperial ballet. The silver clasp bears the Czar’s own initial, N, whilst the front relief shows a view of a theatre within the panorama of the city’s grand outline, decorated with elaborate geometric motifs. On opening, as it were, the theatre, the beholder is invited to a sequence of finely painted scenes (pencil drawings, ink and colour gouache) showing ‘stills’ of Madame Naptal-Arnault’s most memorable interpretations, each signed with the artist’s monogram or, in one case, his full name: Henri II Sacour (1857), Le bourgeois gentilhomme (1858), Le marriage de Figaro (1859), Nos Intimes (1861), Les meaux messieurs de Bois-Doré (1862), La closerie des genets (1863), Tartufe (1864), Princesse et Favorite (1865), La maison neuve (1866), La dame aux Camelias (1867), Les jurons de Cadillac (1868), Bataille de dames (1869), Fernande (1870), Delilah (1871), Mademoiselle de Belle-isle (1872), Fabienne (1873). Adolf Charlemagne’s artistic formation took place in St Petersburg, Germany and Versailles. Awarded the title of Academician in 1859, he achieved fame and a professorship in 1867 with a portrait of Catherine the Great in the workshop of Étienne Maurice Falconet. He went on to a successful career of over 20 years. Eight pictorial panels (180 x 130mm) mounted in thick card frames each containing two scenes in pencil, ink and colour gouache and backed by colour manuscript lists of performance titles and years, the scenes signed by Charlemagne with his monogram, accompanied by manuscript cartouches, protected by paper tissue guards, bound in an elaborately engraved silver case (195x160x50mm) with a relief scene at the front, relief dates to the spine, list of donors at the rear and imperial initial within the clasp, lined in silk.