Marc Chagall. Aleko and Zemphira by Moonlight. Study for backdrop for scene 1 of the ballet Aleko. 1942

Marc Chagall Aleko and Zemphira by Moonlight. Study for backdrop for scene 1 of the ballet Aleko 1942

  • Not on view

For the 1942 Ballet Theatre of New York production (premiere Mexico City). Choreography by Léonide Massine. Music by Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky

Chagall left Paris for the United States in 1941, and the following year the choreographer Léonide Massine asked the artist to design a new ballet based on Aleksandr Pushkin's 1824 poem "The Gypsies." An admirer of Pushkin, Chagall was eager to work on this Russian-themed ballet, which tells the story of Aleko, a young man who falls in love with the gypsy girl Zemphira, but eventually kills her.

These designs for the ballet's four scenic backdrops read as a lexicon of Chagall's painterly motifs: lovers and animals hover against richly saturated grounds, with traces of villages far below. While many theater designers leave the execution of their plans to professional stage painters, Chagall was involved in hand painting the final backdrops.

Gallery label from Stage Pictures: Drawings for Performance, March 11–August 24, 2009.
Gouache and pencil on paper
15 1/8 x 22 1/2" (38.4 x 57.2 cm)
Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange)
Object number
© 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
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