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Not currently on display at the V&A

Stage Cloth

1924 (Painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This front cloth was created for the Ballets Russes season coinciding with the Olympiad at the Théâtre des Champs Élyséss, Paris, and first seen on 26 May 1924. Diaghilev commissioned a fanfare from Auric to be played when it was first revealed. The British dancer Anton Dolin, for whom the ballet, Le Train bleu, was created, recalled that it was when the company appeared at the London Coliseum on 24 November 1924 that the cloth was allocated to the ballet by which it is now known.
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A front cloth is a visual overture seen after the ‘tabs’ or red curtain rises in a western theatre. It is usually accompanied by a musical overture. Its purpose is to establish an appropriate mood for the production that follows but it does not necessarily contribute to the work’s narrative. A front cloth (sometimes called a drop curtain or drop cloth) may be a painting which has been enlarged if no individual will appear in front of it (which is disastrous for scale). In respect of Le Train bleu the music composer, Darius Milhaud had included an overture to musically establish the light-hearted mood of the ballet.

The ‘Train bleu’ front cloth was a copy of Pablo Picasso’s The Two Women Running along the Beach (The Race) painted in Dinard in 1922 which Diaghilev has seen in the artist’s studio. The original is small in size 34 x 42.5 cm but in 24 hours Dighilev’s scenic artist Prince Alexander Schervashidze enlarged the image to 6.78 x 8m on a canvas 10 x 11m – the wide border enabling the cloth to fit on stages of varying sizes. Picasso was so impressed by the fidelity of the copy that he signed and dedicated the curtain to Diaghilev.

Le Train bleu was a fashionable portrayal of beach and sporting life in the 1920s, witty and satiric as well as chic. Its final performance by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was on 13 May 1925 at the Grand Teatro del Liceo, Barcelona. With many other productions the cloth passed to the Diaghilev and de Basil Ballet Foundation Ltd who were responsible for its sale. It had been displayed at Serge Lifar's Ballets Russes de Diaghilev 1909-1929 at the Musee des arts Decoratifs, Paris April-July 1939.
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
Materials and Techniques
Gouache on canvas.
Brief Description
Front cloth painted by Prince Alexander Schervachidze for the ballet Le Train Bleu, 1924, from a gouache by Pablo Picasso. Inscribed and signed by Picasso. Gouache on canvas.
Physical Description
Two women of heroic stature with dark flowing hair wearing white tunics that leave one breast bare, running ecstatically, joined hands upheld, along a beach by blue sea. The blue sky contains white whispy clouds. Copy of Pablo Picasso’s The Two Women Running along the Beach (The Race) painted in Dinard in 1922 copied by Prince Alexander Schervachidze. The image has a substantial grey surround Inscribed and signed by Picasso.
Dimensions
  • Approximately height: 1,000cm
  • Approximately width: 1,100cm
Approximately 12 metres long when soft-wrapped. Weight 350kg.
Marks and Inscriptions
Dedie a Diaghilev Picasso '24' (Dedicated to Diaghilev and signed by Picasso)
Credit line
Given by the Friends of the Museum of Theatre Arts
Object history
The cloth was purchased for £69,000 by Richard Buckle on behalf of the Friends of the Museum of Performance at the auction by Sotheby & Co of Costumes and Curtains from Diaghilev and de Basil Ballets at the Scala Theatre, London on 17 July 1968. It was passed to the V&A as part of the handover of material from the Friends of the Museum of Performance in 1976.

In the 1970s and 1980s it was occasionally lent out for galas, sometimes inappropriately being used as a backdrop.
Production
Painted from a gouache by Pablo Picasso
Summary
This front cloth was created for the Ballets Russes season coinciding with the Olympiad at the Théâtre des Champs Élyséss, Paris, and first seen on 26 May 1924. Diaghilev commissioned a fanfare from Auric to be played when it was first revealed. The British dancer Anton Dolin, for whom the ballet, Le Train bleu, was created, recalled that it was when the company appeared at the London Coliseum on 24 November 1924 that the cloth was allocated to the ballet by which it is now known.

.

A front cloth is a visual overture seen after the ‘tabs’ or red curtain rises in a western theatre. It is usually accompanied by a musical overture. Its purpose is to establish an appropriate mood for the production that follows but it does not necessarily contribute to the work’s narrative. A front cloth (sometimes called a drop curtain or drop cloth) may be a painting which has been enlarged if no individual will appear in front of it (which is disastrous for scale). In respect of Le Train bleu the music composer, Darius Milhaud had included an overture to musically establish the light-hearted mood of the ballet.



The ‘Train bleu’ front cloth was a copy of Pablo Picasso’s The Two Women Running along the Beach (The Race) painted in Dinard in 1922 which Diaghilev has seen in the artist’s studio. The original is small in size 34 x 42.5 cm but in 24 hours Dighilev’s scenic artist Prince Alexander Schervashidze enlarged the image to 6.78 x 8m on a canvas 10 x 11m – the wide border enabling the cloth to fit on stages of varying sizes. Picasso was so impressed by the fidelity of the copy that he signed and dedicated the curtain to Diaghilev.



Le Train bleu was a fashionable portrayal of beach and sporting life in the 1920s, witty and satiric as well as chic. Its final performance by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was on 13 May 1925 at the Grand Teatro del Liceo, Barcelona. With many other productions the cloth passed to the Diaghilev and de Basil Ballet Foundation Ltd who were responsible for its sale. It had been displayed at Serge Lifar's Ballets Russes de Diaghilev 1909-1929 at the Musee des arts Decoratifs, Paris April-July 1939.

Collection
Accession Number
S.316-1978

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record createdNovember 4, 2008
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