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Drawing, Costume Design for a Boyar

This is a Drawing. It was created by Alexandra Exter. We acquired it in 1981. Its medium is brush and gouache, graphite on buff-colored wove paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

This boyar may be old and wizened, but the costume he sports is cutting-edge. His cloak and cap are cut from geometric patterns, in a modern take on medieval fashion. Boyars were high-ranking aristocrats who advised the princes of medieval Russia, but this one wouldn’t look out of place in a cubist or constructivist painting. In step with these artistic movements, designer Alexandra Exter reduces the traditional, ornate uniform of a boyar into elemental shapes and contours. This innovative costume was likely intended for an avant-garde opera or play. Exter was attracted to the dynamism of theater, and in her many theatrical designs, she sought to capture an actor’s movement in three dimensions. In this drawing, a structured column of cloth extends from the boyar’s torso to his toes. The architectonic outfit would be conducive to slow, stately movements, befitting of a dignified aristocrat.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Costume on the Cutting Edge.

This object was bequest of Simon Lissim.

Cite this object as

Drawing, Costume Design for a Boyar; Alexandra Exter (Ukrainian, 1882–1949); Russia; brush and gouache, graphite on buff-colored wove paper; 1981-37-18

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition The Cooper-Hewitt Collections: A Design Resource.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Drawing, Costume Design for a Boyar |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=25 February 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>