Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes

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Serge Diaghilev (1872 – 1929) was a Russian ballet impresario and founder of the legendary Ballets Russes dance company. The work of the Ballets Russes revolutionised ballet and had a huge influence on 20th-century art, theatre, fashion and interior design.

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Diaghilev embraced the modern and exploited the avant-garde. He recruited composers, choreographers, designers and performers, including Mikhail Fokine, Léon Bakst and Vaslav Nijinsky, and left an astonishing legacy of music, dance and art, reflected in our collection of costumes, back-cloths, stage designs and photographs.

Collection Highlights

Stage cloth for 'Le Train Bleu'
Stage cloth for 'Le Train Bleu', designed by Pablo Picasso, painted by Prince Alexander Schervachidze, 1924, Europe
Theatre costume
Theatre costume for Larionov and Slavinsky's ballet 'Chout', designed by Mikhail Larionov, 1921
Costume design
Costume design for 'Le Coq d'Or', by Natalia Goncharova, about 1914
Ballets Russes, poster, by Jean Cocteau, 1913, France
Serge Lifar and Alice Nikitina in 'Apollon Musagète', photograph, by Sasha, 1928, Paris, France
Theatre costumes
Theatre costumes for Fokine's ballet 'Daphnis and Chloé', designed by Léon Bakst, 1912. Museum no. S.508&A, B-1979; S.639&A, B, 635&A, C-1980
Design for the costume of Le Buffoon in the ballet 'Chout', by Mikhail Larionov, 1915, Lausanne, Switzerland
Costume for The Chinese Conjurer in Massine's ballet 'Parade', designed by Pablo Picasso, 1917
Signed photograph
Signed photograph of Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Le Spectre de la Rose', by Bert, 1913. Valentine Gross Archive
Costumes for 'Le Train Bleu', designed by Coco Chanel, 1924
Backcloth for 'The Firebird', designed by Natalia Goncharova, about 1926
Photograph of Tamara Karsavina as the Queen and Adoph Bolm as the stranger in the ballet 'Thamar', by Stanisław Julian Ignacy, 1912, Paris, France


Background image: Backcloth for 'The Firebird', designed by Natalia Goncharova, about 1926. Museum no. S.455-1980. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London