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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1944 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Kestelman, Morris, born 1905 - died 1988 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gouache and watercolour on cartridge paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This watercolour and gouache design by Morris Kestelman (1905-1998) is a sketch for his finished design for the Sadler's Wells Opera production of Puccini's one-act opera Gianni Schicchi, which opened at London's Prince's Theatre on 5th December 1944. The finished design is also in the Theatre Collections (S.343-1987). Morris Kestelman designed both costumes and set, and post-dated this mistakenly as 1945.

Gianni Schicchi, Puccini's only comic opera, was based on a story by Dante and set in Florence in the Middle Ages. This production starred the baritone Edmund Donlevy as the wily Gianni Schicchi who impersonates Buoso Donati on his death-bed. Donati has already died, leaving everything to a monastery, but encouraged by Donati's aggrieved relatives, Schicchi takes his place in bed and summons a lawyer to re-draft the will. To the relatives' fury he wills most of Donati's estate to himself, leaving them powerless to complain for fear of being implicated in the plot. The opera takes place in this one room, the relatives gathered around the curtained bed.

Since the production took place when London was being bombed, the first-night programme noted that the audience would be alerted to an Air Raid warning by an illuminated sign in front of the footlights, asking those who decided to leave to do so quietly, but advising them to remain.

Physical description

Sketched watercolour and gouache design for a box set showing a room in Gianni Schicchi's house, his curtained bed centre stage, a triptych of the holy Virgin on the wall stage right, and open window stage left showing a church spire in the distance.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1944 (made)


Kestelman, Morris, born 1905 - died 1988 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Gouache and watercolour on cartridge paper

Marks and inscriptions

Morris Kestelman 1945
Signed in black ink bottom right


Height: 30.4 cm, Width: 50.6 cm

Object history note

Designed for the Sadler's Wells Opera Company, and produced at the Prince's Theatre opening on 5th December 1944, in a double bill with Il Tabarro. During the war, Sadler's Wells Theatre was used as a rest-home. The company worked outside London but did London seasons at the New Theatre and the Princes', returning to Sadler's Wells in 1945.

Descriptive line

Sketch for the set design for the set of Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi, Prince's Theatre, 5 December 1944. Watercolour and gouache by Morris Kestelman (1905-1998).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Article - In New Mood - published in the Sunday Graphic, 1944, written by Herbert Farjeon, review of the Sadler's Wells Opera's Gianni Schicchi and Il Tabarro at the Prince's Theatre

Production Note

This was probably post-dated mistakenly by Morris Kestelman since the production opened at the Prince's Theatre in 1944.


Gouache; Watercolour; Cartridge paper


Designs; Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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