The Collector of Success: Leon Bakst

The State Tretyakov Gallery

Bakst and Fashion on the Pages of the World’s Press

2016 marked the 150th anniversary since the birth of Leon Bakst
His talent was boundless. He rose to the very top in every field of art he touched upon – be it stage design, graphics, or painting. He was the first Russian artist to win international acclaim in the sphere of fashion. It was another field in which the artist’s versatile talent manifested itself. Bakst is the author of numerous inventions and insights in fashion. He created apparel and fabric designs, wrote several meaningful works on history and theory of art, as well as popular articles, and gave a lot of interviews. Newspapers of the Old and the New World never failed to mention his name. Today it would be hard to imagine how famous Bakst was if the artist himself did not care about keeping a good reputation with the generations yet unborn – Bakst collected unusual and fragile (short-lived) items serving as unquestionable evidence of his success – newspaper clippings.

On June 4, 1909 L. Bakst would write to his wife about his tremendous success in Paris (hardly believing in it yet, as it seemed). And after a while, he would become incredibly famous and join the ranks of the most expensive artists in Paris.
He would be sending the evidence of his success – newspaper and magazine clippings – to his former wife for many years. As soon as in June 1910 Bakst wrote to her that he already had “three thick books of clippings”, while in the next letter (dated June 10, 1910) he promised to send her not only noteworthy clippings, but also the books themselves. He would collect, arrange and keep these precious volumes with the maniacal rigor of a real collector. Today this unique man-made “monument” to Bakst’s incredible popularity is kept at the Tretyakov Gallery. It consists of 12 volumes – large books, 100 pages each, entirely filled with clippings from newspapers and magazines, covering, predominantly, the period from 1910 to 1916, with insignificant inclusions of later materials (up to 1924).

The clippings were collected with admirable accuracy and a bit surprising impartiality. They provide a most varied picture of opinions and evaluations, quite opposite ones at times. Alongside scrupulous, still relevant and amazingly visionary articles and extensive photo reports mostly contained in magazines, one can see clippings from daily newspapers with instantaneous stories, features, and sketches not meant to live long (for they would only be of interest for one day). Their appeal lies in the freshness and frankness of impressions, as well as momentary wittiness of speech hitting the nerve of the time and expressing its spirit. Separate pieces of mosaic join together to deliver a very diverse and truly polyphonic picture of Bakst’s life and his entourage, from the famous Diaghilev’s ballets to far less known Russian ballet companies of Ida Rubinstein, Pavlova and Mordkin, Natallia Trukhanova, etc, that were functioning in parallel with Diaghilev’s one.

The information collected here at times gives a bit more detail and shifts the focus, painting the outline of well-known events a new color, but at times it reveals absolutely new unknown facts or dramatically changes the established perceptions and attributions.
The archive of newspaper clippings is a unique artifact – a very exciting but, at the same time, a very complex one for a researcher. In order to choose and put together the information pertaining to a certain topic, period of time, or a certain event, one has to go through all volumes (more than once, as a rule), which, for this reason, and partly because of very intense natural ageing of newsprint, are currently in an absolutely worn-out state.
In an effort to preserve the whole body of materials and to make it available to the researchers, as well as to honor the anniversary of the artist’s birth, State Tretyakov Gallery has started converting this man-made archive to a digital format and systematizing it by periods of time, topics, persons, etc. In the future an electronic archive featuring interactive links to the materials already existing on the Internet is to be created.

Exclusively for the Year of Fashion project by Google artProject, we have looked through Bakst’s archive to find clippings dedicated to fashion. Bakst’s role in the fashion world of early 20th century is currently being actively discussed in various studies whose authors give quite contradictory estimates of the meaning and nature of the artist’s influence of the fashion industry of the Old and New World. A pilot selection of articles (revealing, at the first stage, by no means the fullest “fashion aspect” of the archive) is an eloquent “unscientific” addition to the researchers’ views. The voices of Bakst’s contemporaries speak in his favor. Their opinions cannot be ignored, and maybe those particular opinions will play a decisive role in the eternal argument of designers – who was the first one…

Europe 
"The old world went color mad, when under the Bakst spell, leaders of fashion wore costumes which were inimitably Bakst in design. "

…Nothing is less improbable than the mode of the coming winter will be increasing by Persian.
One cause may be noted as possibly having helped to put Persian styles to the fore – Teheran has had a revolution, Persia has been much spoken of. If that is indeed so China also deserves to be á la mode, for she has also been a topic of conversation – that is as it may be.
… The Russian ballets which have been so great a success have not been without their influence. Since then one has seen Scheherezade with the superb Persian decorations and costumes which were designed by M.Bakst.
With whom the idea of these Persian fêtes originated is a matter of doubt – whether the honour may be given to the Comtesse de Chabrillan, who gave the first in her house in the Rue Christophe Colombe, or to the Comtesse Blanche de Clermont-Tonèrre, who came from Persia and whose house lent itself more readily to vast decorations".

Numerous letters received from all sides prove that not all of Bakst’s fans managed to guess the name of the fashion house that took the lead in creating contemporary dresses based upon designs by the Russian artist. It is the Paquin fashion house that took up the challenge, and the result will be observed in the middle of the month. Our kind subscribers will be able to find a few lines about these dresses in the 20 March issue of Comédie illustre. They will satisfy their curiosity and get ready for visiting Rue De La Paix.

Gala's opera-cloak "Prima-Donna" from Leon Bakst's collection for Paquin
Hair style by Camille Roger
Shoes by Hellstem

A hat in 1913. — Three hats designed by Léon Bakst. — Ornaments Here’s something new: three hats designed by Léon Bakst and created by Camille Roger to enchant. Three charming styles and silhouettes, three favorites: Mlle Lucienne Guett, Arlette Dorgère, and Marcelle Praince — all three of them from the world of theater. Lucienne Guett stars as a coquette at Théâtre Michel; Arlette Dorgère will enjoy her habitual success in Honneurs de la Guerre at Vaudeville, as soon as these styles become available; and Marcelle Praince is hailed every evening at Théâtre des varieties. The hats with a distinct and elegant cut with white feathers worn by Lucienne Guett are extremely remarkable. Camille Roger created various sizes to fit various heads. A bonnet, slightly lowered onto one eye, is uniquely original and innovative, with a band of pink and white leather with lilac lace. The third one, which supports the wealth of hair of Arlette Dorgère so gracefully, is more of a hairdo-hat that combines perfectly with an evening gown; you can wear it to a theater loge. Vivid originality is manifested in it as well, owing to the slightly lowered upper portion, with a tassel and a feather that emphasize the contours of the hat. Bakst’s inexhaustible gift has found its new manifestation in the women’s hat. However, he does not reveal his entire talent yet… Instinct with the best traditions of good taste, Camille Roger fashion house has created models according to the design by the Russian maestro. Camille Roger managed to add to them a subtle artistic understanding, and we sincerely congratulate Léon Bakst on this collaboration!

Expressing the spring time of the earth; and with futurist effects: modern dresses by M. Léon Bakst

From the designs by Léon Bakst; realized by Mme. Paquin.

Showing "the simplicity of colour and the influences of March and April and May": costumes by the famous artist who designed so many of the dresses and much of the scenery for the Russian ballet.
"… And now the costume that I have Imagined is based on woman's desire for freedom of movement. … I wished to express sartorially the spring time of the earth. If my designs seem to hark back to classic times, to the period when the race was finest and civilization the highest, it is because I have tried to represent the same conditions. There are simplicity of colour and the influences of of March and April and May in my designs. … We are in the transition stage. I did not wish to dogmatise, but merely to point the way".

Punch, or the London charivari.

Hints to climbers: how to attract notice:

1. Wear costumes designed by M.Léon Bakst, who, we hear, is adding to his triumphs in the field of Russian ballet by creating models for a Parisian modiste.

Mlle Arlette Dorgere
"A pretty Parisienne who is one of the theatrical stars of the Gay City. Mlee. Dorgère is described as the most beautiful blonde in Paris. Like so many French actresses she began her career on the music-halls, and thanks to her pretty face and charming personality she is now a leading lady of the light-comedy stage. She is seen wearing a new toilette designed for her by M. Bakst, the famous artist …"

<…>"The great establishment of Poiret", writes a recent visitor, "except for the gallant work it is doing for the soldiers, might as well be closed. The purple and pink stripes, the flaunting Bakst motifs, … the green walls, the mural decorations of riotous colors and forms, the dull folds of curtains, which cut off fitting spaces, are not obscured from your leisurely study by the intrusion of any other visitor".
Monsieur Poiret is a member of the 220th territorials, and his sacrifice to his country is as complete as can be, when measured by the immensely profitable business he has put aside. <…>
<…>"The great establishment of Poiret", writes a recent visitor, "except for the gallant work it is doing for the soldiers, might as well be closed. The purple and pink stripes, the flaunting Bakst motifs, … the green walls, the mural decorations of riotous colors and forms, the dull folds of curtains, which cut off fitting spaces, are not obscured from your leisurely study by the intrusion of any other visitor".
Monsieur Poiret is a member of the 220th territorials, and his sacrifice to his country is as complete as can be, when measured by the immensely profitable business he has put aside.

<…>While Poiret stands eager, rifle in hand, waiting the command to fire or charge, in his rear the American Woman, while she is maintaining a strict neutrality so far as the big war is concerned, is up to her pretty ears in campaign plans to invade and conquer much of the territory he has considered his by right of brilliant conquest. She is awfully sorry for Paul Poiret, but one must be dressed.

<…> A few years ago a magician came out of the East and waving his wand near the sacred precincts of the Rue de la Paix, presto! the fashions of the world were changed. It was a brilliant butterfly had just emerged from a drab cocoon.
The magician was Leon Bakst and the wand he waved, so to say, was the ballet of «Cleopatre», which Serge de Diaghileff produced with the Russian dancers at the Opera Comique in the spring of 1909. <…>
There is not a modish gown made in the ateliers of Paris, London, or New York does not feel, directly or indirectly, the influence of this remarkable artist. <…>
The true Russian is half Oriental, it is to the Orient that Bakst has gone for much of his inspiration in design and color<…>
Perhaps Baks’s greatest individual achievement was his designs for scenery and costumes of Otiental play «Scheherazade», which is danced to the music of Rimsky-Korsakoff The dress designers of Paris, from such great masters as Worth, Paquin and Poiret , down to the humblest dressmakers of the bourgeoisie, seized upon the costumes of «Scheherazade» as an inspiration for season’s fashion. <…>

Some of the exotic Styles to Be Seen at the Ballet Russe Fashion Show Which Opens To-morrow at the Ritz-Carlton Under the Auspices of the Woman’s Supply League and J. M. Gidding & Co.
Wonderful evening wrap of a gold and silver brocade on a background of black. The huge collar, cuffs and hem of lynx are reminiscent of the Tartar queen in «Tamar».
This walking suit, called «The Cossack», is an adaptation of Cossack uniform.
This beige brocaded afternoon frock, with unusually deep hem of moleskin and collar to match, shows pronounced Russian influence
The most unusual evening gown of greenish gold metallic cloth over green velvet. It reflects the barbaric splendor of the Russian ballet «Cleopatre». The harem veil is of greenish gold mesh edged with gold embroidery, and the headdress and girdle are studded with Oriental stones.

Russia 
“In Russia they haven’t yet got used to the fact that a serious artist could be interested in fashion, create fashion, or work for fashion. It seems wild to our people" L.Bakst

"…But even more curiously, our ballet’s success has influenced the latest Parisian fashion.
Following a luxurious staging of Scheherazade with stage and costume design by Bakst, the Parisian shops were flooded with “fashion novelties” in the Persian and Indian style.
Yesterday I met a ballet dancer who returned from Paris, and, among other things, noticed his fantastic colorful Orient-style tie.
“It’s all the rage now! These ties are in great demand now. “Bakst” ties have appeared in all fashion stores. Indeed, no one could ever expect that our success would cause a revolution in the sphere of… fashion.
Just imagine: Bakst is now really besieged by Parisian ladies, artistes in particular, begging this “fashion artist” to design their costumes.
You can already see elegant French ladies in Persian and Indian style dresses in the streets as well"

The other day, I had an opportunity to discuss costume design and fashion with L.S. Bakst. The artist permanently lives in Paris and is not only well aware of all fashion news, but also personally draws costumes, corrects the designs by French artists and tailors, as well as gives advice and directions. <..>
L.S. Bakst has long been hesitant to talk about fashion.
Why?
“In Russia,” the artist explained, “they haven’t yet got used to the fact that a serious artist could be interested in fashion, create fashion, or work for fashion. It seems wild to our people. But Paris is another story! It’s a place where I feel free to express my opinion of a certain dress, cloak, or hat. No one would consider it unworthy of the artist’s talent or disparaging. In Paris I often visit great tailors like Worth, Paquin, Lucile, and Callot. Numerous designs are called after me <…>
I asked what the artist saw as an ideal in women’s clothes.
“Full resemblance to men’s ones,” he answered. “Don’t think that my jupes-culottes that caused a stir but soon went out of fashion are gone forever. They’ll certainly come back.

AU BONHEUR DES DAMES
Drawings by A. Radakov
My wife gave a poke in the ribs and whispered:
“Look, there is a woman getting her legs broken, do you hear her bones cracking? God, how horrible…”
“How horrible, such a torture in the 20th century!” I exclaimed.
“Dear God,” my wife said, “how horrible is that this woman is not me!”
“Look, look, now she is getting bolted up!..” she continued, “oh God, why do you give your blessing to some and deprive others of it? Why does this ugly woman have access to such luxury, and I don’t… why, why?”
“Darling, what do you mean?!!”
“Hold your tongue, you, miserable, mean person. Of course, you cannot afford such a pleasure to your wife… Oh you tyrant!!! Did you ever think that your wife would enjoy – if only for ten minutes – being hung up by the neck, like this fool?!..”
“Darling???”
“Oh poor me! Look, they’ve put an iron mask on her! They’ve placed tongs on her nose, and had her arms gripped in a vice. How beautiful her broken body has become! Now she’ll be laid under a board, and 5 men will be dancing czardas on the board for an hour! And then it will be over… She’ll emerge from underneath the board, happy, lovely… divine.”
“Darling, but she is crippled, she is ugly, she’s going to die…”
“Keep silent, you foolish, rude, nasty, wretched bonehead!!! Can’t you see – this torture allows her to wear a dress to the latest design by Leon Bakst!!..”

A WOMAN AFTER L. BAKST
(A tribute to our fashionmongers) A caricature by A. LEBEDEV

• Make the figure thin and serpent-like with intense massage.
• Cover the legs with artistic tattoos.
• The arms should resemble the Indian idols.
• And the woman’s appearance will be irresistibly charming

“It’s due to the nature of Parisian ladies that everything that amazes them on stage evokes a lively response in fashion. For me, it’s the only way to explain why my stagings had such a great influence on the gradual transformation of the women’s costume…
“Blue, green, and gold hair owes its existence to ballet Cleopatra and tragedy La Pisanella by Gabriele D'Annunzio staged at the Parisian Théâtre du Châtelet with Ida Rubinstein in the lead role. Ida Rubinstein was the first to wear a colored (blue) wig in Cleopatra. Finally, the fashion for colored turbans and Oriental costumes spread all over the world and came to stay only due to Scheherazade’s fabulous success. The things that seemed to be created for stage only – for instance, fancy Southern makeup worn by all Scheherazade’s artistes by my intent, impressed modern Paris so much, that, as we all know, the Parisians walk with their faces painted saffron, brown, and yellow color even during the day.

Do they know in Russia that a colored wig is nothing more than a final note in that gradual transformation that has been irreversibly changing a woman’s figure, a woman’s costume, the lines and colors of her silhouette, and the character of its decorations for six years already, creating a distinct style of the 20th century
Given such intensity, the color palette confronted a woman’s face and hair style, and, being astonished with their simplicity and dullness compared to the luxurious abundance of pure and bright colors, logically made a modern woman put on makeup and paint her hair in hues that are able to compete with other, basic colors of the costume.
A modern Parisian lady is a gorgeous, harmonious color chord, a fantastic flower; a poisonous, seducing plant, and, perhaps, the last Eve.
The harsh dawn of the 20th century’s half will bring to us a new modern lady’s image – “an equally righted androgyne”.

New Fashion of Artist L.S. Bakst
New fashion is a witty transformation. Of what? Of a peasant’s sheepskin coat, a peasant’s cap. A modern Parisian lady, wearing a sheepskin, leather, or woolen coat, fur-trimmed “a la Bakst”, looks very gracious and elegant, and her silhouette differs dramatically from previous, “pre-war” fashion. As seen in the pictures above, American ladies did not hesitate to wear modern style Russian clothes as well. It would be curious to know what position the German fashionmongers, who always copy the French ladies, will take. What are the chances they are going to dress up in Russian sheepskin coats?

USA
It is absurd to fancy that American designers can at once wrest away the glories from Paris that Paris has been enjoying these hundreds of years.

"Cubist" Costumes for the modern Woman

"What is the characteristic of the modern age?" reflectively queried Leon Bakst, pondering upon the woman of to-day. "Sportiveness", came the answer, and thereupon he set to work to design such clothes as the woman of the present time should wear.
To carry off the Bakst costumes the wearer should be abnormally attenuated and tall and possessed of movement. Even then, attired in these strange creations, woman appears so dissorted and caricatured that she is fairly uncanny. From the sandals to the radical headdress, the unusual costumes on these unfleshly figures make the beholder wonder at the possibilities of womankind.
Mr. Bakst explains why, in the midst of the efforts for the novel and the darling, he goes back to the ancient days for so many of his effects by saying that he wishes to express sartorially the springtime of the earth.
The swift-footed Atlante is perhaps the most graceful of Mr. Bakst's creations, most of the novelty being in the coloring. Deauville is one of the most startling, with its ornate, narrow skirt, fantastic coat and daring chapeau. Iolante has the marks of futurism more plainly indicated and Isis the Egyptian. Philomele, both in the swooping wing from her hat and in the curious wing effects of her costume presents a reminder of the bird with wh<ich> her name is associated.
Mr. Bakst, who has heretofore be known chiefly for his work in staging a costuming the ballet, has made a strik<ing> departure in entering the arena of ga<ther>ing the woman of to-day.

Riotous Colors in Minaret Gowns: Costumes Designed by the Exiled Russian Artist, Leon Bakst, for a New York Theatrical Production

Deported from Moscow, Leon Bakst has found a place for himself in Paris. He, who used to design the bizarre gowns of the Imperial Ballet, is now producing a strange effects for the Parisian stage. His latest achievement, the minaret gown, is exhibited herewith, and New York is to have the opportunity of seeing these extravagant costumes, for they will be worn by the participants in the "Doll Girl", Charles Frohman's new production.
The character of the minaret is less in its cut than in its color. Blue, red, lavender, pink, orange, gray, green, with their many intermediate shades, all appear on these strikingly unconventional gowns, not merely one but many and diverse colors in each. … The result is a perfect riot of wonderfully blended shades, producing an artistic weirdness of effect never equaled before. And superadded to this Eastern gorgeousness is a Parisian chicness and pertness in the matter of style and line.
Extraordinary

Now Get a Minaret Gown! Do They Mean Hoopskirts Again? : Chief Purpose of the New Skirt Is to Stand Out Away From the Figure-Wired Edge of the Garment Is Just a Hint of the Hoop of Our Grandmothers.

"…The wired tunic which Paul Poiret introduced ever so cautiously a number of seasons ago, is accepted today as THE novelty of season. In all its variation it is the strongest influence, the distinguishing feature of the new season's styles.
What was at first called the "lamp-shade" skirt has come to be called the "Minaret", after the opera by that name, now the vogue in Paris and Vienna. Minaret. However, is a term appropriated by Leon Bakst, that other far-famed creator of fashion, to elastify a general type of gowns in which his weird fancy is reveling.
"The character of the minaret is less in its cut than in its color," says Bakst. "A perfect riot of primary colors, softened with over draperies of tinted chiffons, with the glint and sparkle of beads and jewels – these are the stuffs out of which I evolve the minaret," he adds.
And indeed Paul poiret willingly attributes his lamp-shade skirt to the Oriental source of Bakst's Arabian Nights' drama.

New York, October 12. – Probably it is not correct to say that the Russian ballet, costumed by Leon Bakst, had anything to do with the created fashion of gorgeous topcoats for afternoon and evening usage, for, after all, Bakst copied and built upon oriental styles: those exhilarating clothes shown in Scheherazade must have been inspired by old Bagdad, even though they were created by Russians who moved marvelously to Russian music.

And yet there is a tendency toward all the glorious coloring of Bakst in many of the wraps that women of wealth will wear this winter – a winter that needs must be bitterly cold if women are to be comfortable in the clothes they elect to wear. One needs the snows of Russia rather than the suns of Bagdad as a background to such costumery. <…>

It is absurd to fancy that American designers can at once wrest away the glories from Paris that Paris has been enjoying these hundreds of years.

When America does this America will have to educate itself in art as well as in the craftsmanship of making feminine apparel. In France the best talent is called upon. <…>

Bakst, designer of the costumes for the Russian ballet, made designs for Paquin. They were too audacious, and yet they left an influence. Poiret seized upon some of the ideas and this season Callot shows decided Bakst outlines and suggestions.

The Paris couturiers do not take a glass of absinthe and dream wild vagaries of fashions. They study history, they study art, and, what is more important, they have inherited an app recitation of true beauty, not the make-believe and the cheap.

All glory to them! They have earned their laurels. If America is to earn its crown it must start at the beginning – and learn! <…>

Fashions feel the effect for a time of every political or artistic upheaval, but when has the influence of one man so enduring as has that of Leon Bakst?
<…> the Bakst rage hit Paris so hard through the Russian Ballet that it bounded to America, probably to every other quarter of the globe, and stayed. For, though the war has left its martial imprint on the world of styles, as it has left its bloody imprint on the ground, Bakst stands impregnable. The glass of fashions cannot wipe off the gorgeous colorings of the master, and the mold of form cannot regain its conventional shape after once expanding to the daring of his lines.
<…> When Bakst designed this lady-in-waiting to the queen in «Tamar» he probably did not stop to think that the garb of the barbaric woman who watches through the open window for the next victim to her sovereign’s just for blood doubtless become an opera coat for fashionable woman of 1916. From stage to stall is a rapid journey for Bakst creations. Will Bakst, as he glances from the boxes, recognize a crimson velvet cloak dotted by diamond panes of ermine?

The new prophet has arisen in the realm of dress. It is Leon Bakst, the now far-famed Russian artist Whose costumes and scenic designs for the remarkable series of imaginative dramas in Serge de Diiagileff’s Ballet Russe are the talk of the our. Leon Bakst, whose colors, whose lines, whose individuality, whose fearlessness, whose genius are being lauded now on every hand<…> it is costumes which will chiefly interest women who go to the theatre for new inspiration in raiment. For example. The costume of the eunuch in «Scheherazade» has had an immediate influence on Parisian evening gowns of the winter. <…> Undoubtedly the much be-slashed costume of the Sultan’s Favorite will form inspiration for many a boudoir negligee in next twelvemonth. And by the way it was Bakst who was responsible for the slashed skirt which so upset Mrs Grundy three years ago. The slashed skirt appeared in New York immediately after the exhibition of Bakst paintings had set the critics all agog. <…>
Illustations:
Traceable to Bakst in this helmet cap with its daring feather
The Oriental idea produced a new theater cap of silver net and beads
The new coiffure Russe has a decided Bakst suggestion
A new wrap «after Bakst»<…>

Fashion officiates at strange marriages, makes strange companions. Bakst comes along with his Ballet Russe costumes, and straightway we see carmine red, American beauty and purple used in juxtaposition in the same frock. We have had summer frocks of filmy fabric trimmed with fur, we have seen the sheerest of embroideries combined with velvet, and now we are treated to Turkish coat suit of Scotch plaid. Certainly some style creators care not whether their models observe warfare etiquette.
Some wish coat suit is not Turkish, but Spanish. Fashion folk are divided upon this point, for some claim the bolero jacket, as they evolve it, expresses inspiration derived from the costumes of the Sultan’s subjects. Some others stoutly aver that the bolero rightfully belongs to Spain, Should be credited to the land of olives. But, in either case, it is rather startling to see the bolero fashioned from Scotch plaid. <…>

Sitting at the rear of a fashionable audience at the theatre or opera this winter, one is impressed by the number of sparkling ornaments in women’s coiffures – and also at the dainty and carefully groomed as the coiffures themselves. <…>
Several stage influences have made glittering hair ornament the fashion. For one, the gorgeous spectacle of the Ballet Russe, in which wonderous ornaments for head and hair form an important part of costumes, designed by that past master of color, Leon Bakst. «Bakst’s» hair ornaments of various sorts are already displayed in the larger shops and splendor and weird design are their special features. <…>

<…> The old world went color mad, when under the Bakst spell, leaders of fashion wore costumes which were inimitably Bakst in design. It remained, however, for a clever American mind to conceive the idea of using the Bakst motifs, in their original colorings, to ornament combs and pins destined to adorn milady’s tresses.
The Bakst coiffure ornaments are decidedly unique in forms because they are exact replicas of the oddly shaped motifs which appear in the fabrics designed by the fantastic imagination of the great artist.
The two-pronged comb of Egyptian inspiration was suggested by a motif in gorgeous costume worn by the wife of Potiphar in the ballet «the Legend of Joseph». <…>
The magnificent coloring used in «Schecherazade» and a motif reproduced from a fabric of one of the costumes, appear in the fan-shaped pin which is to be worn high on the coiffure. <…>
Of unsurpassed richness in peacock tones is fantastic pin which suggests the fascinating weirdness of India. It was inspired by a motif used in the costumes of «Le Dieu Bleu». <…>
The last of the Bakst coiffure ornaments is a graceful pin whose orange and red enamel, set with sapphires on hammered gold, are duplicates of the flame-colored hues which make «The Firebird» one of the most enchanting of the ballets. <…>

Fashion makers declare that it is impossible to think of new gowns in any but the terms of the Russian ballet and Bakst just now. Not that well-dressed women are adopting stage costumes, but because of the demand for Bakst color combinations. This means simply the introduction of a bold splash of color in the most artistic way possible.

A Strong Revival of the Russian.
Instead of going back to history, as everyone thought it was probable that the French designers would do, they went back to Russia. This is only a step backward in the right direction. It may by claimed that we have never got out of Russian influence since the Russian ballet, under the wizardry of Leon Bakst, held Paris in thrall. Every night one would see there the most famous designers with keen, watching eyes, and the artists for the best designing houses were always working rapidly with their pencils, taking in a line here and suggestion there.
Callot gives up afternoon and evening wraps entirely, although these were usually the principal showings of her collection in other days. She supplants them by gorgeous Russian coats that reach to the ankles, high collars of fur that smother the neck, but leave plenty of room for the chin; long, wide, slightly flaring sleeves that have cuffs large enough to serve as muffs.
<…> Cheruit, also, makes a point of her Russian coats for afternoon and evening, and carries them out on the model with which we are familiar. She uses pinched-in effect to which she gave such prominence last summer

The one brilliant feature to the onlooker at the opening of the opera season is the splendor of the wraps. <…>
It would be easy to arrive at a reasonable computation of the sum of money spent on opera wraps by those who sat in the boxes. One knows the general price of a splendid coat and can multiply this by the number of people who occupy their seats. Even this computation/ which only represents a part of the Metropolitan Opera House on the opening night, is a bit staggering, and one begins to realize why so many of the dressmakers are rich, why they can ride in limousines, buy museum pieces for their apartments, inludge in tapestry and speculate in the market.
The aggregation of colors was more stimulating to the mind than cost of these wonderful wraps. Flame color was in the lead, and velvet overtopped the other fashions. Several kinds of fur were heaped on this flame-colored material and there were also barbaric designs, made of jewels and applied to the surface in some such way as we shall see later in the costumes designed by Leon Bakst for the Russian ballet. <…>

Credits: Story


The State Tretyakov Gallery
Department of prints and drawings XVIII-beginning of XX century
Science information and bibliography department
Digital images department
Multimedia and internet projects department

Working group: Irina Shumanova, Zoya Shergina, Tatiana Nikolaeva, Anna Grishina, Maria Konstanistova, Maria Krivenko, Katrin Krylova, Elena Rymshina, Elizaveta Yakovleva, Svetlana Suvorova, Igor Khlystov, Elena Misuchenko

Volunteer translators: Eugenia Baranova, Sofia Efimova, Daria Zharova, Vladislava Kolesnikova, Maria Malyshkina, Ekaterina Minaeva, Tatiana Morozova, Polina Orlova, Natalia Safonova, Maria Shingareva

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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