Costume for Salome, performed by the Ballets Russes

This extraordinary costume was designed by Serge Sudeikin for prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina for the 1913 ballet 'La Tragédie de Salomé', performed by Serge Diaghilev's iconic Ballets Russes.

Inspired by the explicit illustrations created by Aubrey Beardsley for Oscar Wilde's play Salome, this costume was considered highly risqué for the stage at the time – the mesh panel in the bodice gave the illusion of Karsavina being bare-breasted with orange stars covering her nipples. The body-hugging design featured short culottes and bare legs and her right leg featured painted roses on the thigh and calf to further emphasise this.

Karsavina's intoxicating performance as Salome was bold and expressive and the unconventional, striking costume (described in a review of the production by the Daily Telegraph as 'weird') provided inspiration for fashion designers and cartoonists.

Join Theatre & performance Curator, Jane Pritchard, as she explores the costume in detail and discusses the lasting impact of the Ballets Russes, Tamara Karsavina and the role of Salome.

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Acquired for the collection in 2022 by family and friends in loving memory of Chloe Grace Neary. Discover more about in-memory giving at the V&A.

Header image:

Costume worn by Tamara Karsavina as Salome in Serge Diaghilev's ballet La Tragédie de Salomé, designed by Serge Sudeikine, made by Mme Ivaschenko of Caffi, St Petersburg, 1913. Museum no. PROV.668-2022. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London