Alexandre Benois , an historic footnote to costume design:

From 1901, Alexandre Benois was scenic director at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. This was the performance space for the Imperial Russian Ballet. He was to work with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and to design the sets and costumes for

‘Les Sylphides’ (1909) ‘Giselle’ (1910)  and ‘Petrushka’(1911).


 In Charles Nicoll’s scholarly book, ‘Leonardo da Vinci’, Nicoll recounts

a story:

[ The whereabouts of a Leonardo Madonna and Child]… ‘until the early nineteenth century are uncertain, though it may be the Madonna and Child described in 1591as a ‘small panel in oils from the hand of Leonardo’, which was then in the house of the Botti family in Florence. In the 1820s it unexpectedly surfaced in the Crimean province of Astrakhan. According to one account, it arrived there in the baggage of an itinerant Italian musician. By 1824 it was in the possession of the Sapojnikov family of Astrakhan; it was on this date, according to family records, that it was transferred to canvas by a restorer named  Korotkov.’


Leon Benois, a brother of Alexandre, was a famous architect and artist, as well. He was married to a Sapojnikov and lived in France. He was also the grandfather of Peter Ustinov, the actor.

The Leonardo Madonna hung in their home in France. There Alexandre and his   other brother, Albert, must have been able to gaze upon it. When Leon died, his wife returned to St. Petersburg and exhibited the Madonna for the first time in 1908. It became known as Leonardo’s ‘Benois Madonna’ and was purchased by Tsar Nicolas II in 1914 for the Hermitage. Wikipedia gives a different version of the story. Regardless, The Benois family owned a Leonardo which was, according to Wikipedia, sold to the Astrakhan merchant Sapojnikov sometime after 1790 for 1400 roubles .

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