"Three, seven, ace!"

PUSHKIN, Alexander and Alexandre BENOIS (artist)

Pikovaia Dama

[Queen of Spades]

Publication: Skt. Peterburg, P. Golike and A. Vilborg, 1911.

PUSHKIN, Alexander and Alexandre BENOIS (artist), Pikovaia Dama

A novella masterpiece of Russian literature here in a celebrated edition finely illustrated and beautifully produced.

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Our Notes & References

Beautiful and famous illustrated edition of Pushkin’s celebrated text – nice example of a Russian ‘livre d’artiste’.

Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece based on Pushkin’s Pikovaia Dama was Benois’ favourite opera. Although he provided some of the décor for a 1903 production, it was not until May 1921 that Benois produced and adapted Tchaikovsky’s libretto and designed all the sets and the costumes for the State Theatre for Opera and Ballet in Petrograd. These illustrations dating from a decade before, obviously influenced the 1921 production. They are presented here in a high-quality production: the printers Golike & Vilborg were among the leaders of Russian luxury printing, they chose a thick, cream-coloured papier vergé, and seven of the mounted plates -the larger ones- are tipped onto thick card, protected by a plain leaf of the same laid paper.

With a historical and literary introduction by pushkinist Nikolai Lerner.

Alexandre Benois (also spelled Aleksandr Benua in transliteration) was born in 1870 in St Petersburg into an artistic and intellectual family. His father Nikolay was a prominent architect, his mother Camilla was the granddaughter of Catterino Cavos, an Italian composer who settled in Russia in the 18th century; and his brother Albert was also a painter.

Aleksandr studied in the private gymnasium of Karl May, where he met Sergei Dyagilev and other participants in the future Mir Iskusstva [World of Art] movement. For some time, he attended evening classes at the Academy of Arts and Albert taught him some basic painting skills. After graduating from the Faculty of Law in 1894, he kept entertaining his passion for arts and theatre, and founded Mir Iskusstva together with Diaghilev and Bakst. The aim of this new movement was to promote the Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau in Russia; it became one of the most influential artistic organisation of the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1905 Benois moved to Paris and devoted most of his time to stage design. He collaborated with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and created many ground-breaking sets and costumes, for the productions of Les Sylphides (1909), Giselle (1910) and Petrushka (1911) among others.

Surviving the upheaval of the Russian Revolution, Benois achieved recognition for his work and knowledge in art history, and was appointed a curator of the Old Masters in the Hermitage Museum, where he served from 1918 to 1926. He then left the newly formed Soviet Union and returned to Paris, where he died in 1960.


Avenir Nizoff (émigré, pianist, who lived in Edmonton, Canada, in the second half of the 20th century, and gathered a large, wide-ranging library of Russian works, especially covering art, history and literature).


Gubar 100; Sesliavinskii, Gurmanov 14.

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Physical Description

Quarto (30 x 24 cm). [4] half titles, XXI incl. title, 68 pp., with illustrations in text (mostly as head- and tail-pieces of the 6 chapters) and 15 colour plates after Benois, mounted within a typographic frame, some included in the pagination and 7 on thick card protected by a blank leaf.


Publisher’s cream boards with gilt decorations to upper cover, same in blind to lower cover, later spine of tan leather, raised bands, gilt decorations to compartment, brown leather label lettered in gilt, original yellow-orange patterned endpapers.


Boards rubbed and soiled, rebacked and corners restored; the odd foxing spot, otherwise fine internally.

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