Diaghilev 1954 (again) – Times change

As I continue to get so many requests for information about Richard Buckle’s The Diaghilev Exhibition at Forbes House exhibition I thought I’d share with you a few further images of that memorable display because it is so different from Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929.


Gallery 1 showed the three large posters now in our exhibition – with the Serov image of Pavlova (1909) and the two 1913 posters for the Théâtre des Champs-Elyssés with Cocteau’s Le Spectre de la rose drawings in a setting by Eric Richie. A quick look at the Buckle catalogue shows confusing listings, how times have changed in cataloguing and what a wonderful job paper conservation and the mounting departments at the V&A have now done on these posters.


We then move to Gallery XII and I quote from Buckle’s catalogue. ‘In the wings and behind the scenes of an empty theatre ghosts of the Diaghilev dancers inhabit temporarity the costumes they wore many years ago. The décor is devised and executed by Peter McGinn.’ The first photo (in the wings) shows costumes for Zobéïde in Schéhérazade said in the catalogue to have been worn by Karsavina and Karsavina’s Act I Giselle dress. This is in our collection but did not pass the ‘audition’ for inclusion in the current exhibition.

The second photo in a dressing room includes Lydia Lopokova’s Sylph costume, Lydia Sokolova’s Hostess dress from Les Biches and Bolm’s belt and cap from his Polovtsian Chief costume, all of which are included in the V&A’s current exhibition. Also scattered on hangers, over the back of the chair and on the floor are the body tights and costume elements worn by Nicholas Zverev and Vera Nemchinova as the Acrobats in Parade, which were acquired by the Bibliothèque-nationale in 1967.

Interestingly many of the costumes displayed were loaned by Cyril Beaumont (his collection was bequeathed to the V&A) or by Serge Grigoriev. Grigoriev’s collection formed the nucleus of the first, 1967, major Sotheby’s Ballets Russes auction. It was in this part of the exhibition that the Guerlain Mitsouko perfume (Diaghilev’s favourite in the 1920s) was sprayed each day.

Finally – and this was the final part of Buckle’s exhibition – we have The Castle of The Sleeping Beauty, and again I quote from the Catalogue. ‘The decoration and sculptures in the upper and lower halls and on the staircase are designed by Leonard Rosoman, and the scultures are executed after his designs by Peter Lyon. Here visitors may listen to recordings of music commissioned or used by Diaghilev. The Princess is always asleep, but she is always ready to be reawakened.’

Buckle’s exhibition attracted a very impressive 140,000 visitors we will never reach that number – we only made our target number of 90,000 just before Christmas. Buckle also sold 40,000 catalogues at 3s a go – our book has had a print run of 10,000 and its recommended retain price is £35 but look out for bargins in the V&A on-line sale.


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