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Not currently on display at the V&A

Theatre Costume

1917 (made)

Pablo Picasso’s costumes for his first ballet, Parade shocked the audience at its première in Paris on 18 May 1917. The Cubist elements of the managers’ costumes hinted at the disintegration of a world they knew, recalling the fractured cityscapes of war. Nevertheless the costumes for the ‘acts’ the managers’ introduced were more traditional. That for the Conjuror was inspired by music hall magicians, who frequently adopted a Chinese persona. The most famous was Chung Ling-Soo, an American who had begun his career in magic as Robinson the Mystery Man.
The Conjuror was danced firstly by Léonide Massine and subsequently (after Massine had been dismissed from the Ballets Russes) by Woizikowski. Both also danced the Chinese Conjurer’s solo in programmes as independent dancers (in music halls or as guest artists with other companies). This costume was probably a second version worn by Léon Woizikovski although the last owner, Serge Lifar inscribed the costume with the names Leonid Massine, Leon Wojcikowski and Serge Lifar.
According to information from Lydia Sokolova, Vassili (Diaghilev’s wardrobe master) gave the costume to Woizikowski after Diaghilev’s death. At that time Woizikowski was performing the solo in divertissement programmes including with Marie Rambert’s embryonic company. In 1958 Sokolova noted in a letter to Richard Buckle that during World War 2 Woizikowski in his native Poland ‘buried the costumes and other things in the ground in Poland. His home was burnt down, but he found the things intact.’ She commented ‘He has worn the Chinese dress very much and is going to Paris to try and sell [it].’
watch Conservation stories: Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes The V&A holds the largest collection of Ballets Russes costumes in the world. Jane Pritchard, Curator of Dance, and V&A conservation specialists take us behind the scenes as they prepare key objects, costumes and a giant stage cloth for display in the major 2010 exhibition 'Diaghilev and t...
object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.
(Some alternative part names are also shown below)
  • Theatre Costume
  • Dance Costume
  • Theatre Costume
  • Dance Costume
  • Trousers
  • Theatre Costume
  • Dance Costume
  • Hat
Materials and Techniques
Silk, satin, silver tissue with padded appliquéd silver cloth and cotton hat with woollen pigtail
Brief Description
Costume for The Chinese Conjurer in Massine's ballet Parade, for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, 18th May 1917. Designed by Pablo Picasso (1881-1974)
Physical Description
The costume is in three parts.

A wide Chinese-style jacket of scarlet silk satin appliqued in chrome yellow satin in a sunburst pattern and with a flat yellow collar. The tunic has a decorative scalloped hem of padded silver tissue and on the front a padded curled decoration of, now tarnished, silver cloth. There is similar decoration but unpadded on the back picked out further with grey and black stitching. These are often referred to as clouds but when re-staging the ballet in the 1970s Massine said this represented the intestines through which the Conjuror’s egg magically travels between mouth and foot. The sleeves are set into the side seams from waist and slightly graduated towards the cuff, and the jacket fastens on diagonal from left hip to neck with silver braid frogging and metal buttons. The silk fabric costume is fragile and the left panel has had to be replaced losing its band of yellow.

The black Chinese-style calf length trousers have asymmetrical wavy bands of Chinese yellow satin.

The Chinese-style red, black and yellow cotton headdress with long black wool queue or pigtail attached, though bought with the costume and including the Lifar stamp, is not the original, has lost one of its crowns and only evokes that worn by Massine and Woizikowski. The headdress may not be the original but made to give the effect of it.



Dimensions
  • Display footprint height: 176cm
  • Display footprint width: 150cm
  • Display footprint depth: 50cm
Display 'footprint' dimensions taken from the records of the V&A 2010 exhibition Diagheliv and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes
Object history
Purchased from Sothebys
Summary
Pablo Picasso’s costumes for his first ballet, Parade shocked the audience at its première in Paris on 18 May 1917. The Cubist elements of the managers’ costumes hinted at the disintegration of a world they knew, recalling the fractured cityscapes of war. Nevertheless the costumes for the ‘acts’ the managers’ introduced were more traditional. That for the Conjuror was inspired by music hall magicians, who frequently adopted a Chinese persona. The most famous was Chung Ling-Soo, an American who had begun his career in magic as Robinson the Mystery Man.

The Conjuror was danced firstly by Léonide Massine and subsequently (after Massine had been dismissed from the Ballets Russes) by Woizikowski. Both also danced the Chinese Conjurer’s solo in programmes as independent dancers (in music halls or as guest artists with other companies). This costume was probably a second version worn by Léon Woizikovski although the last owner, Serge Lifar inscribed the costume with the names Leonid Massine, Leon Wojcikowski and Serge Lifar.

According to information from Lydia Sokolova, Vassili (Diaghilev’s wardrobe master) gave the costume to Woizikowski after Diaghilev’s death. At that time Woizikowski was performing the solo in divertissement programmes including with Marie Rambert’s embryonic company. In 1958 Sokolova noted in a letter to Richard Buckle that during World War 2 Woizikowski in his native Poland ‘buried the costumes and other things in the ground in Poland. His home was burnt down, but he found the things intact.’ She commented ‘He has worn the Chinese dress very much and is going to Paris to try and sell [it].’

Associated Objects
Collection
Accession Number
S.84-1985

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record createdJuly 1, 2009
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