Digital Commonwealth

Alexandre Benois Collection

Boston Public Library

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Since 1983, the Boston Public Library has acquired in several components a distinguished and unique (to this country) scholarly resource -- the personal library and related collections of eminent painter, art historian, and Ballets Russes set and costume designer, Alexandre Benois.

The collection is comprised of books, prints, early Russian and European photographs, cartes de visite, exhibition catalogs, theater and ballet programs, children’s books, and sound recordings, as well as original costume and scenery designs for productions ranging from “Merchant of Venice” and “Le Pavillon d’Armide” to “Le Malade Imaginaire” and “Petrushka.” The collection also includes research materials used by Benois to conjure these imaginative renderings.

Alexandre Benois was born in 1870 into a distinguished family of French artists and architects of St. Petersburg. He moved actively and vocally through the influential artistic and court circles of Europe. He was curator of paintings at the Hermitage 1918-1930; he founded (with Sergei Diaghilev) the Mir Iskusstva movement; he became a renowned art historian, critic, book illustrator, bon vivant, and crusader for the spread of Russian culture abroad. His broad interests, his erudition, his outspoken views on society and culture around him, his wide contacts, and his multiple talents are richly reflected in this astounding collection of materials.

Critical funding to support long-term preservation of and enhanced public access to Boston Public Library collections, including this one, was provided by the Associates of the Boston Public Library.