Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 1919 – London, England 1969
Costume design for The Queen of Shemakhan from Le Coq d'Or
1954 chalk; gouache; graphite; paper drawing in gouache, pencil and chalk
69.6 h x 50.2 w cm
Accession No: NGA 73.3
Le Coq d'Or
Old King Dodon worried that his country would be attacked by a neighbouring kingdom governed by the beautiful Queen Shemakhan. An astrologer gave the King a magic golden cockerel that would warn the King of any danger. The King, in return, promised to grant the astrologer anything he wished. Rather than wait to be attacked the King decided to send his army, led by his two sons, to wage war on the neighbouring kingdom. The sons were both killed.
After the battle the King met Queen Shemakhan, fell in love with her and wanted to make her his bride. The clever Queen realised that she could take over the King’s country without fighting for it, and accepted the proposal. Just as the marriage was taking place, the astrologer came to claim the Queen as his reward. The enraged King killed him with a blow from his mace. The golden cockerel then avenged his master by striking the King dead.
Le Coq d’Or (The golden cockerel) was written by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908). In this production, illustrated by Loudon Sainthill and performed at the Royal Opera in 1955, the African-American soprano Mattiwilda Dobbs played the Queen of Shemakhan.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra