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Poster - Ballets Russes
  • Ballets Russes
    Cocteau, Jean, born 1889 - died 1963
  • Enlarge image

Ballets Russes

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (printed)

  • Date:

    1913 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cocteau, Jean, born 1889 - died 1963 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Colour lithograph

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mademoiselle Lucienne Astruc and Richard Buckle in memory of the collaboration between Diaghilev and Gabriel Astruc.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 106, case WW, shelf EXP

This huge French poster was designed by Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) to advertise the sixth Paris season of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. It shows the Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky (1888-1950) as the spirit of the rose which he danced with Tamara Karsavina in Mikhail Fokine's ballet Le Spectre de la rose.

The young French poet and artist Jean Cocteau was dazzled by the Ballets Russes and its star dancer, Nijinsky, when they appeared in Paris in 1909. Cocteau wrote of Nijinsky's animal grace: with his 'slender young torso contrasting with overdeveloped thighs, he is like some Florentine, vigorous beyond anything human, and feline to a disquieting degree'. For the 1913 Ballets Russes season Cocteau designed two posters of the same size, the other depicting the ballerina Tamara Karsavina as the young girl in Le Spectre de la rose.

Physical description

Poster depicts Vaslav Nijinsky in costume which consists of a body suit with pale peach rose chains draped over the upper body and shoulders and a more dense cover of similiar coloured roses over the lower torso. Green leaf-like pieces trail over the thighs. He is wearing a rose-covered cap. He is posed to appear in motion. The background for Nijinsky is solid green with Cocteau's signature on the lower left corner. At the top of the poster is the name of the theatre and director in red. At the bottom of the poster is the name of the ballet company in a pale peach.

Place of Origin

France (printed)


1913 (printed)


Cocteau, Jean, born 1889 - died 1963 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Colour lithograph


Height: 189 cm poster, Width: 129 cm poster, Height: 200 cm frame approx., Width: 138.5 cm frame

Descriptive line

Poster for the Ballets Russes season in 1913 at the Theatre des Champs Elysses incorporating image by Jean Cocteau showing Vaslav Nijinsky in Mikhail Fokine's ballet 'Le Spectre de la rose', 1911

Labels and date

Although this poster advertises the 1913 season by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (which was dominated by the première of the hugely controversial Le Sacre du printemps), it actually uses Jean Cocteau’s image of Vaslav Nijinsky in Mikhail Fokine's romantic ballet Le Spectre de la rose. Fokine’s ballet, and the poster’s image, were created two years earlier. [16/08/2016]


Printing ink; Paper



Subjects depicted



Entertainment & Leisure; LGBTQ; Gender and Sexuality; Dance; Posters


Theatre and Performance Collection

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