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Costume Design, Opera, Caramba, Antique Watercolor Pair, c. 1920s (Sold)

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Caramba (Luigi Sapelli) (1865-1936) (attributed to)
Jeunes Filles [Young Girls]
Jeunes Bergers [Young Shepherds]

Italy: c. 1920s
Pen and ink and watercolor on board
13.5 x 10.25 inches, overall

Pair of male and female opera costume designs featuring traditional folk motifs, apparently intended for rustic Hungarian characters. Although titled in French (probably because the opera was in French), each drawing has elegantly handwritten specifications for the fabrics and materials in Italian. These works, although not signed, were originally accompanied by another pair of costume designs signed by Caramba, depicting gypsy characters, probably from the same opera.

Product description continues below.


Luigi Sapelli, who went by the name of Caramba, was a renowned designer of sets and costumes for Italian and foreign opera companies, including La Scala, La Fenice, Regio di Torino, Opera di Roma and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. A self-taught artist who began as a caricaturist, by his early twenties he was designing productions for an operetta company. He went on to establish his own costume design studio, and was known for his attention to detail, from fabrics to historical background. From 1921 until his death, Caramba served as the director of scene preparations at La Scala. Today, the costume area of the opera house’s large production facility is named for him.

Text on Jeune Filles:

“Giovani fanciulle: Camicia di tela – Corsetto di velluto con nastri stampati a bouquets – Gounellino di lana – Grembiale di tela – Stivali di cuoio bleu — Acconciatura del capo in nastro stampato a bouquets eguale alla guernizione del corsetto. Giubbetto di panno ricamato – Camicia De tela con maniche con la frangia – Gonnellino di lana. Foulard in capo – Stivali in cuoio rosso. B.= In questi costume domina il bianco e vi sono sempre note rosse.”

[Young girls: Linen blouse — Bodice of velvet with ribbons printed with bouquets — Skirt of wool — Aprons of linen — Blue leather boots — Head attire in a band printed with bouquets the same as on the bodice trim. Little jacket of embroidered cloth — Linen blouse with fringed sleeves — Skirt of wool. Head scarf — Red leather boots. B.= These costumes white predominstaes and there are always notes of red.]

Text on Jeunes Bergers:

“Giovani pastori e contadini ungheresi: Camicia di tela Bianca – Calzoni di tela Bianca Altri con camicia formante sottanella in lungo calzone sempre di tela Bianca con ricami rossi. Giubbetto di velluto o franno ornato di alamari con guernizione di monete, bottoncini, ricami, ma in modo di formare deciso contrasto frer colore e stile dagli zingari.”

[Young Hungarian shepherds and farmers: Shirt of white linen — Pants of white linen — Others with shirts shaped like cassocks in long pants always of white linen with red embroidery. Little velvet jacket or [?] ornamented with loops trimmed with coins, metal studs, embroidery, but in a manner forming a decisive contrast with the colors and styles of the gypsies.]


“Caramba.” Dizionario dello spettacolo del’900. (14 February 2005).

Additional information


20th Century