Natalia Gontcharova      (1884 - 1962)


Alexandre Pouchkine

Conte de Tsar Saltan

The tale of Tsar Saltan

Paris: Editions de la Sirčne, 1921

300 x 232 mm. 48 pages

Edition: 599. Copy nr. 365.


The tale of tsar Saltan, his son Guido and the Swann-Princess stands in sharp contrast to  Gontcharova’s earlier publications of 1920 (see nrs. 75 and 76). Written by Russia’s greatest poet Alexander Pushkin it enchants the reader with a beautiful fairy-tale world. The illustrations were all coloured by pochoir or by free-hand in bright colours by French students of Gontcharova. Only the contours in red were printed together with the text. The cover ornamentation, which at first glance seems floral, reveals at closer look fishes in a coral landscape. Rich ornamentation decorates the beginning of the book and the borders of each page. The colours of every opposite pair of pages are well in tune with each other. The whole appearance is that of a mediaeval manuscript. Here Gontcharova shows the influence of Bilibin, who illustrated Pushkin’s tales at the beginning of the century. She combines this Russian heritage with Symbolist Art and even abstract influences into a brilliant visual experience. After almost 85 years it has not lost anything of its sparkle and freshness. The effort expended on this book was so great that it was never repeated as one can judge from the less richly illustrations of Igor’s tale published in 1924.


Munich 1993, pp.133-134

Paris 1999, pp. 50-51

Cotsen library 2000, nr. 9032

Paris 2010, p. 68

Offenbach 2016, nr. 23

Seslavinski 2009, pp. 204-209