© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The Poet, 1919

Watercolor and gouache over graphite on cream wove paper
38 x 49 cm (14 15/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Bequest of Walter E. Rothman
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
In 1919, the director of the newly formed Hermitage Theater in Petrograd (present-day St. Petersburg) asked Chagall, the post-revolutionary commissar for the arts in his hometown of Vitebsk, Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire), to design sets and costumes for Nikolay Gogol’s The Wedding (1835). The play is a satirical comedy that revolves around a matchmaker trying to choose one of five reluctant suitors for a wary bride. An actor playing Gogol—called "the poet"—was meant to appear onstage to narrate the tale. Although the production was ultimately canceled, The Poet survives as one of Chagall's earliest designs for theatrical productions.