Léon Bakst (1866-1924) was born in Russia, but spent most of his artistic career in Paris. In 1898, he co-founded the World of Art (Mir Iskusstva) group. He then went on to establish a reputation as a portraitist. In 1902, he switched his artistic focus and devoted himself completely to stage design. Bakst is best known for his work as a costume and set designer for Diaghliev’s Ballets Russes.
The costume (above) is made of fine silks - lustrous satin, sheer chiffon and plush velvet - and is finished with a finely pleated frill on the bodice, thin blue ribbon, marabou feathers and hand-painting. This combination of luxurious fabrics and judicious detailing is evident in all of the 300 costumes which Bakst designed for The Sleeping Princess. The effect was overwhelmingly sumptuous.
Costume for the English Prince in The Sleeping Princess, 1921.
The Sleeping Princess is a familiar fairy story of how good vanquishes evil. After sleeping for 100 years, the Princess is finally awoken by the handsome Prince, and her wedding takes place in the last act. There are many guests at the celebration and the Bluebird, wearing this elaborate costume, dances a pas de deux. The doublet of royal blue and pale blue satin was worn with matching tights. It is intricately detailed with imitation pearls, jewels and appliqué.
Carnival, first performed in 1910, was revived by Colonel W. de Basil's Russian Ballet company during the 1930s. The costume for Chiarina, which reflects her youthful joy, was re-made according to Bakst's original design. The ruffled crinoline skirt is faithful to the designer's concept; however, the bodice differs slightly from the 1910 drawing.
:theatre museum, victoria and albert museum, © v & a picture library; national gallery of australia, canberra