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Costume design
  • Costume design
    Bakst, Leon, born 1866 - died 1924
  • Enlarge image

Costume design

  • Place of origin:

    Russia (drawn)

  • Date:

    1910 (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bakst, Leon, born 1866 - died 1924 (costume designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil and watercolour on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Cyril W Beaumont Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The design is for Papillon in Mikhail Fokine's ballet Le Carnaval, first produced by the dancers of the Imperial Russian Ballet at a charity performance in St Petersburg in 1910 and then taken into the repertory of what became the Diaghilev Ballet. The ballet took the titles of the Commedia dell'arte characters indicated on Schumann's score and set them in the context of a 19th century ball as a comment upon human relationships. Papillon, the role created by Bronislava Nijinska, was the social butterfly, pursued by the love-lorn Pierrot, and the frills, fluttering ribbons on the wrist and headdress, combined with the never-ceasing choreography, suggested the vivacity and frivolity of the character. The whole character of the ballet was of lightning-fast movements, flirtation and coquetry which contrasted with the chaste hooped costumes of the women, which signalled 'don't touch'.

Physical description

Costume design by Leon Bakst for Bronislava Nijinska as Papillon in Mikhail Fokine's ballet Le Carnaval, Diaghilev Ballets Russes, 1910. Three-quarter female figure standing with head turned to left and left arm flexed, wearing a low necked bodice with v-front set with horizontal rows of pointed frills and short frilled cap sleeves; the crinoline skirt is open at the front revealing horizontal rows of similar frills with a two tier overskirt edged in blue; in each lower front corner of the top skirt is a red circle, white surround and edged in blue. On the hands are white gloves; around the left wrist is tied a narrow blue ribbon with tails and on the right wrist is a bold gold bracelet with central oval. The fair hair is dressed in mid-19th century style with an elaborate blue flower headdress fixed to the back, which cascades onto the shoulder. The skin is flesh tinted. Around the figure is drawn a pencil frame. Inscribed: CARNAVAL DE / SHOUMANN / "Mme Nijinska / PAPILLON and BAKST. Pencil and watercolour.

Place of Origin

Russia (drawn)


1910 (drawn)


Bakst, Leon, born 1866 - died 1924 (costume designer)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil and watercolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Textual information; Upper right hand corner; Handwriting; Pencil

Signature; Lower right hand side above dress; Handwriting; Pencil


Height: 173 mm to pencil frame, Width: 155 mm to pencil frame

Object history note

Historical significance: A costume design by one of the major revolutionary stage designers for a major ballet. Although mostly famed for his mildly erotic oriental and exotic designs, Bakst was equally a master of period design, and this charming evocation of a mid-19th century costume is an excellent example.

Descriptive line

Costume design by Leon Bakst for Bronislava Nijinska as Papillon in Mikhail Fokine's ballet Le Carnaval, Diaghilev Ballets Russes, 1910. Pencil and watercolour.

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

Buckle, Richard In Search of Diaghilev. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1955, p.49.


Pencil; Watercolour; Paper


Drawing (image-making)


Entertainment & Leisure; Designs

Production Type



Theatre and Performance Collection

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