• Jean Cocteau [Igor Stravinsky]  Wooden Hand Torch Candelabra Sconce from the Stravinsky Collection, ca. 1940

Jean Cocteau [Igor Stravinsky] Wooden Hand Torch Candelabra Sconce from the Stravinsky Collection, ca. 1940

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Striking and unusual painted wooden candelabra sconce by the French surrealist writer, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau for the home of his friend, composer Igor Stravinsky.  A hand extends from a carved six-point star (the star being Cocteau's most personal symbol), gripping a column to which a bulb may be attached.  With 15 foot cord and mount on the back; electrified later by Vera Stravinsky and in working condition.  Measures 14 x 7.5 x 8.25 inches (35.5 x 19 x 21 centimeters).  Together with a digital image of the composer shown working at the table and a signed letter of provenance, detailing the history of the work and circumstance of its gifting from Vera Stravinsky to the niece of Robert Craft. 

A remarkable, unique work, reminiscent in some sense of the dream castle animate arm torches in Cocteau's historic 1946 film La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast).  Undated and unsigned, but with photographic documentation of the piece hanging in the Stravinsky residence at 920 Fifth Avenue, NY (where the composer died) and where it was mounted at the apartment entrance, described by Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft as having been accomplished and gifted to the composer by Cocteau.  The included image shows the work mounted, after Vera Stravinsky had electrified it, at the entrance to the Stravinsky apartment, in the private vestibule for the elevator.  In the background she may be seen with her hair in a towel wrap, sitting in front of the same wall cabinet seen in another photograph with Igor Stravinsky playing patience, seated at the table from the same collection (see other listing).

Provenance: By family descent from Kristin Crawford, the niece of Robert Lawson Craft (1923–2015), the American conductor and writer best known for his intimate professional relationship with Igor Stravinsky.  Craft met Stravinsky in 1948, after a year of correspondence: "Stravinsky invited Craft to meet him during a stay at a hotel in New York.  In the lobby, Craft met the poet WH Auden, there to deliver the manuscript of the libretto for The Rake’s Progress.  In Stravinsky’s suite, it soon became apparent to the composer that this young man knew as much about literature as music, and could perhaps be useful to him.  Shortly afterwards, Stravinsky invited Craft to join him and his second wife, Vera, at their Hollywood home, to act as his secretary and musical factotum." (The Guardian)  Craft would have a profound impact on the latter portion of Stravinsky's career and wrote numerous volumes about both the composer and their time together.  The present work was given to Crawford by Vera Stravinsky when she assisted with the Cocteau-Stravinsky correspondence in the late 1970s, though it remained in the NYC apartment until 1985.  Crawford notes that it also hung "in the second North Wetherly Drive home in Hollywood" but that she "cannot say for certain that it hung in the first Hollywood home as I never visited that one."  The included letter of provenance also states that "Both Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft told me that this was a Jean Cocteau piece given directly by the artist to Igor Stravinsky. I do not know when Cocteau gave it; since their friendship dates to 1914, it could have been given early on during the French or Swiss period, or possibly during the Hollywood years."