See more objects with the tag ballet, costume designs.

Object Timeline

1937

  • Work on this object began.

1947

  • Work on this object ended.

1963

  • We acquired this object.

2015

2019

2021

2022

  • You found it!

Drawing, Costume Design: Death, for "Checkmate"

This is a Drawing. It was music composed by Arthur Bliss and designed by E. McKnight Kauffer and production directed by Ninette de Valois and made for (as the client) The Royal Opera House. It is dated ca. 1947 and we acquired it in 1963. Its medium is brush and gouache, graphite. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.


Kauffer’s colorful costumes and backdrops for the ballet Checkmate made headlines when the production debuted in 1937. He collaborated with choreographer Ninette de Valois and composer Arthur Bliss to produce a visually striking performance unlike any other. Militaristic choreography and the triumph of Death over Love in a combative chess game reflected political tensions in Europe at the time.

This object was donated by Mrs. Edward McKnight Kauffer. It is credited Gift of Mrs. E. McKnight Kauffer.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 51.1 × 39.4 cm (20 1/8 × 15 1/2 in.)

It is signed

Signed, in ink, lower right: E. McKnight Kauffer

It is inscribed

Inscribed in graphite, upper right: [line to helmet]: shiny blade; center right: gray=silver-shiny; in black ink, lower right: Death “Checkmate”

Cite this object as

Drawing, Costume Design: Death, for "Checkmate"; Music composed by Arthur Bliss (British, 1891–1975); USA; brush and gouache, graphite; H x W: 51.1 × 39.4 cm (20 1/8 × 15 1/2 in.); Gift of Mrs. E. McKnight Kauffer; 1963-39-275

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer.

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

For higher resolution or commercial use contact ArtResource.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18447603/ |title=Drawing, Costume Design: Death, for "Checkmate" |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=16 August 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>