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Painting - Anna Pavlova as 'The Swan'
  • Anna Pavlova as 'The Swan'
    Lavery, John Sir, born 1856 - died 1941
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Anna Pavlova as 'The Swan'

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1911 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lavery, John Sir, born 1856 - died 1941 (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequest of Mrs Leonore Lena Graham. Copyright Estate of Sir John Lavery

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Anna Pavlova appealed greatly to sculptors and painters. This portrait of her in her costume for her most famous role Le cygne (The Swan), is by the distinguished painter Sir John Lavery.

The Swan was a short solo, created for Pavlova by choreographer Mikhail Fokine. It followed the last minutes of the dying bird's life, and was popularly known as The Dying Swan. She wears a white tutu with stiffened wings over the skirt, her face framed in feathers and with a jewelled headdress. On her breast is a blue glass jewel. Many dancers who later performed the solo wore a red jewel, suggesting that the swan has been shot, but the original idea was rather that the swan, at the end of its life, is drifting and drowning in the water.

Pavlova was extremely exacting about her costumes. The tarlatan underskirts of her tutu had to be of exactly the right degree of starchiness. As she could not find what she wanted in either London or Paris, thousands of yards were sent from America every year. Her Swan costume was never worn more than twice without the tarlatan skirts being renewed.

Physical description

Oil painting on canvas, in an oval frame, showing Anna Pavlova dressed as the Swan. Her right shoulder is turned towards the viewer and she wears the close-fitting feather head dress and white tutu of the swan.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1911 (painted)


Lavery, John Sir, born 1856 - died 1941 (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'Mrs L.L. Graham Dec. (19 items) RSPP Tour 1941' 'OFFICIAL AGENTS JAMES BOURLET & SONS Ltd. 17-18 Nassau Street, London W1. Tel Nos MUSEUM 1871 &7588'
On paper label

In white chalk, upside down, on top bar verso

On middle cross bar

Printed paper label, largely missing


Height: 82.5 cm maximum, oval frame, Width: 66.0 cm maximum, oval frame

Object history note

This half-length portrait relates clocely to Lavery's large picture of Pavlova in the same role in the Tate Gallery. The latter, inspired by Pavlova's first London season, was painted in 1911 and shown at the Royal Academy the following year. Pavlova's husband Victor Dandre did not feel the Royal Academy portrait was a good likeness and preferred the same artist's head of Pavlova in The Bacchinale, which had been the great success at the first night of her first London season.
Bequest of Mrs Leonore Lena Graham, 1989

Descriptive line

Portrait of Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) as the Swan which she performed on 18 April 1910 at the Palace Theatre, London, in a programme of divertissements as part of a variety bill. Oil on canvas by Sir John Lavery (1856-1941), 1911

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of Paintings at the Theatre Museum London, Geoffry Ashton, published by The Victoria & Albert Museum 1992.


Oil paint; Canvas


Paintings; Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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