Not currently on display at the V&A

The Favourites of the Ballet. / 10 / Madlle Carlotta Grisi … The Polka.

Print
21 June 1844 (published)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Grisi wears red and white, the national colours of Poland The flashes on the heels indicate metal tabs, which the dancers used almost like castanets, emphasising the clicks as the heels were brought together in a movement characteristic of the national dances of Eastern Europe. She is standing in a ballet pose, but the folded arms indicate that the dance is not classical, but a national dance from a particular country.
The Polka is a Bohemian folk dance. Carlotta Grisi and her partner, Jules Perrot, introduced it to London in April 1844 and created an immediate sensation. Their pictures were everywhere, not only as prints, but on ceramics and on music sheets. Soon the polka stormed the ballrooms and became one of the most popular social dances of the century. Today, it is generally remembered as the dance taught by Anna to the King of Siam in the musical The King and I.


Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleThe Favourites of the Ballet. / 10 / Madlle Carlotta Grisi … The Polka. (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Lithograph coloured by hand
Brief description
Carlotta Grisi in The Polka. 1844. (The Favourites of the Ballet 10). Lithograph coloured by hand, 1844.
Physical description
Title: The Favourites of the Ballet. / 10 / Madlle Carlotta Grisi … The Polka.
Against a medieval townscape with church spires and domes stands a dancer. She stands on the point of her left foot, her raised right leg, with flexed foot, crossed behind. Her body faces the viewer; her arms are folded and her head inclined to her left. She wears a Venetian red fez trimmed at the crown and base with white, and a Venetian red bodice with wide round neck and long sleeves, trimmed with white at the neck, down front, on upper sleeves and at the cuffs. To her left, over the white knee-length bell-shaped skirt are blue-black sash tails ending in a white fringe. On her feet are cuffed Venetian red ankle boots, the cuffs trimmed in white and with white flashes on the low heels. The print area is cut across at the corners.
Dimensions
  • Right hand side height: 420mm
  • Lower edge width: 295mm
sheet sides irregular
Credit line
Given by Dame Marie Rambert
Object history
The print is no. 10 in the series The Favourites of the Ballet. There is no record of how many prints were in the series.
The Polka was originally a Bohemian folk dance. Jules Perrot and Carlotta Grisi introduced it to London in April 1844 and created an immediate sensation. Their pictures were everywhere, not only as prints, but on ceramics and on music sheets.
The print is part of the collection of dance prints amassed by Marie Rambert and her husband, Ashley Dukes in the first half of the 20th century. Eventually numbering 145 items, some of which had belonged to the ballerina Anna Pavlova, it was one of the first and most important specialist collections in private hands.
Rambert bought the first print as a wedding present but could not bear to give it away. As the collection grew, it was displayed in the bar of the Mercury Theatre, the headquarters of Ballet Rambert, but in 1968, Rambert gave the collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum; seven duplicates were returned to Rambert, but these are catalogued in Ivor Guest's A Gallery of Romantic Ballet, which was published before the collection came to the V&A. Although often referred to as a collection of Romantic Ballet prints, there are also important engravings of 17th and 18th century performers, as well as lithographs from the later 19th century, by which time the great days of the ballet in London and Paris were over.
Summary
Grisi wears red and white, the national colours of Poland The flashes on the heels indicate metal tabs, which the dancers used almost like castanets, emphasising the clicks as the heels were brought together in a movement characteristic of the national dances of Eastern Europe. She is standing in a ballet pose, but the folded arms indicate that the dance is not classical, but a national dance from a particular country.
The Polka is a Bohemian folk dance. Carlotta Grisi and her partner, Jules Perrot, introduced it to London in April 1844 and created an immediate sensation. Their pictures were everywhere, not only as prints, but on ceramics and on music sheets. Soon the polka stormed the ballrooms and became one of the most popular social dances of the century. Today, it is generally remembered as the dance taught by Anna to the King of Siam in the musical The King and I.
Collection
Accession number
E.5022-1968

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Record createdSeptember 23, 2004
Record URL
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