Caroline Hamilton Historian

Historical Researcher

Finding the Ballets Russes in NYC – Part One.

Whenever I go, intentionally or not, I seem to find something to do with Diaghilev and The Ballets Russes.

For the last week I have been in New York and on Monday I visited the Met Museum – one of my favourite museums. Quite by accident I came across a  display of designs by Léon Bakst.


The small exhibition, in the Drawing and Prints room on the second floor (690), contains 15 designs and paintings by Bakst as well as some items of ephemera. According to the didactic panel the Met’s holdings of Russian art were significantly enhanced in 2015 through the bequest of Sallie Blumenthal.


Unfortunately there are some pretty bad mistakes in the information panels including a statement that the Ballets Russes was founded in 1905.

The designs include a number of Ballets Russes related items:


  • A design for Iksender from La Peri – Bakst designed this ballet in 1911/12 but it was never created. The design at the Met is dated 1922 and would appear to be a copy created by Bakst.
  • Two designs from Scheherazade.  One is a costumes design for the Sultan Samarkand dated 1922 – this, like La Peri, would appear to be a copy created by Bakst . The second design is for a Eunuch from 1910.
  • Two designs from Daphnis and Chloe. One is a design for a woman from the village and the second is for a Brigand Boy – both dated 1912.
  • The costume design for a female courtier from The Sleeping Princess, 1921. I believe this design might actually be from Anna Pavlova’s version of The Sleeping Beauty created in 1916. Bakst did reuse some of his designs for the Ballets Russes 1921 version.
  • The design for the day bed for Cleopatra, dated 1909.
  • Set design for The Good Humoured Ladies, 1917.
  • Set design for Daphnis and Chloe, 1912.
  • Set design for Narcisse, 1911.
A case of ephemera relating to the Ballets Russes 1916 & 17 USA tours.

Irving Penn

The Met currently also has a wonderful exhibition of Irving Penn’s (b.1917 – d.2009) work. Although Penn worked after Diaghilev’s death a number of his portraits featured associates from the company. This included: Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Stravinsky – as well as a wonderful portrait of The Ballet Club featuring Balanchine.

Copyright Met Museum

In search of Pavlova…

Over the last 12 days I have been exploring Scotland by train (and ferry and occasionally bus and even taxi!) – it was brilliant adventure. When I was in Glasgow I went to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It was here that I was able to see this wonderful painting of Anna Pavlova in The Bacchanale by Sir John Lavery.

Lavery, b.1856 – d.1941, was born in Belfast. He was sent to Scotland in 1866 and would go on to establish his career in Glasgow.

I found Pavlova in Glasgow!

Lavery moved to London in 1896 and soon became a sought-after portraitist. He painted Anna Pavlova several times across 1910 and 1911.

Lavery was commissioned by The London Illustrated News, in 1910, to paint a head and shoulder sketch of Pavlova. The image appeared in the paper on the 22nd of April, 1911, p. 17 – ‘Anna Pavlova – The great Russian dance, by John Lavery – Specially painted from life for The London Illustrated News.’ Pavlova posed regularly for him during her stay in London in 1910 and Lavery painted two full-length portraits of Pavlova in The Bacchanale, one of which is as Kelvingrove.

The painting of Pavlova at Kelvingrove – it captures a wonderful sense of movement!
Sir John Lavery [Irish painter, 1856-1941]
Lavery’s second portrait of Pavlova.
Lavery’s head and shoulder portrait of Pavlova , commissioned by The Illustrated London News.

On Pavlova’s return to London in 1911 she posed again – this time Pavlova’s famed solo The Dying Swan formed the focus. Interestingly the painting was completed using Lavery’s wife Hazel as the model. The Tate cites that ‘although there were clear differences between the two women, Lavery believed that, in stage makeup, Hazel could easily pass for the dancer.’

Le Mort du Cygne: Anna Pavlova 1911 by Sir John Lavery 1856-1941
The painting of Pavlova at The Tate.
Hazel Lavery – you can see some similarities to Anna Pavlova.
Anna Pavlova dressed in her swan costume by the pond at Ivy House. Museum of London.

Whilst this portrait is beautiful it is certainly does not emulate Pavlova and her dancing as well as The Bacchanale at Kelvingrove. The Tate mistakenly cites this portrait as showing Pavlova in the ballet Swan Lake and not the divertissement Le Mort du Cygne aka The Dying Swan. The Tate wrongly suggests that the lake in the background is the ‘swan lake’ and that Pavlova’s pose is not from the ballet. The scene to me looks like it may be by the pond at Ivy House (Keith Money supports this) – Pavlova often posed in her swan costume by this pond. The pose is reflective of the final moments of The Dying Swan. 

A second portrait is held at the V&A. Another study of Pavlova in The Dying Swan was sold for £158,500, at Christie’s in 2014.

Portrait at the V&A.
Portrait sold at Christie’s in 2014.

Ballets Russes Google Doodle

Yesterday marked the 145th birthday of Ballets Russes impresario Serge Diaghilev – to celebrate this Google created a doodle in his honour.


Without Diaghilev the arts and in particular ballet would be very different. The Ballets Russes was the most significant artistic enterprise of the C20th and it was led by the indomitable figure of Diaghilev.

Diaghilev fostered and promoted the careers of dancers such as Pavlova, Nijinsky and Karsavina – choreographers; Fokine, Massine and Balanchine – composers; Stravinsky, Ravel and Satie and artists including Bakst, Goncharova, Matisse, Picasso and de Chirico.


Although such a significant figure he has been largely forgotten in the main stream which is why this doodle is so fantastic. I hope it prompted even just a few people to learn more about this great man.

In January this year I visited Venice and went to San Michele where Diaghilev is buried. He died on the 19th of August 1929 and was buried in the Russian Orthodox section of the island cemetery.


The monument was covered with ballet shoes left by visitors. Nearby are the graves of Stravinsky and his wife Vera. The morning I visited I was the only person in this quite section of the cemetery.

Instagram – history_babe

I have recently started an Instagram page where I will be sharing glimpses into my current projects and research. You can find me @history_babe

History Babe

Pavlova at The Savoy once more…

Last weekend I was involved in a wonderful event at The Savoy as part of this year’s Russian Ballet Icons Gala. This year’s gala focused of the legacy of The Ballets  Russes and consisted of a star studded gala at The Coliseum Theatre followed by a dinner at The Savoy.

I was asked by Giberg London to create a display inspired by Anna Pavlova for the pre-dinner drinks reception. Swiss silversmiths, Giberg, have created a wonderful range of jewellery, watches and objet d’art inspired by Anna Pavlova and they wanted this inspiration to be present in the display. For this event a replica of Pavlova’s Dying Swan costume took pride of place. I also had three dancers dressed as Pavlova (each costume was inspired by a different photograph of the ballerina) moving throughout the room.

I traced this wonderful picture of Pavlova performing at the annual fancy dress ball in 1912. The painting, by A.C. Michael, appeared in the Illustrated London News on the 1st of June 1912.

The Savoy was allegedly where Serge Diaghilev preferred to stay when in London and the Savoy Grill was apparently his favourite eatery. Anna Pavlova herself performed there several times at the annual fancy dress ball in aid of Middlesex Hospital. In 1911 Pavlova won second prize in the best lady’s costume competition dressed in her Russian dance costume.

Giberg event Savoy (7)
Ursula Hageli’s stunning reconstruction of The Dying Swan tutu took pride of place.


Giberg event Savoy (11)
The three ladies portraying Anna Pavlova looked gorgeous in vintage costumes.
Giberg event Savoy (13)
Thank-you to the wonderful Sophie Dutta for creating three gorgeous 1920s looks. 

Giberg event Savoy (22)
Packing up wasn’t quite so glamorous!

What started it all …

The Ballets Russes, and in particular their costumes, have been my passion since I was 15 years old and found an old exhibition catalogue in a second-hand bookshop.

The catalogue was from the National Gallery of Australia’s 1999 exhibition, From Russia with Love, and contained a picture of this costume for a knight from the 1910 production of Firebird. I became obsessed with this wonderful costume which had been designed by Aleksandr Golovin for The Ballets Russes.

My favourite costume of all time! NGA

I loved the relative simplicity of it and the use of a white/cream back ground. The double skirt or lampshade style also fascinated me. To me it was perfect!

In year 10 at my high school in Central Victoria – while everyone else was making cotton pj’s in textiles class –  I made and screen printed my own version of this costume!

The design for ‘My’ costume.


The Firebird remains my favourite ballet and this costume triggered my whole career!

A swan song …

The Swan  – Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova, b. 1881 – d. 1931 was most famous for her performance of the divertissement The Swan or The Dying Swan. The elaborate feathered tutu she wore has  always fascinated me – How was it made? Does it survive?

Several years ago I began working as a volunteer at the Museum of London which houses, amongst its vast collection, Pavlova’s Dying Swan tutu. Finally I was able to see this wonderful creation up close.

I have now traced three Dying Swan costumes in collections around the world – they are all thought to have been worn by Pavlova.

Pavlova’s costume-maker Madame Manya stated that “she [Pavlova] never wore more her Swan costume more than twice without the skirts of the tutu being renewed”. This was most likely because tarlatan and tulle were much softer and required constant stiffening.

Could this be why three costumes still exist?

1. Museum of London

This costume was given to The Museum of London in 1931, shortly after Pavlova’s death, by her manager Victor Dandré. It is a beautiful costume decorated with white and cream goose feathers. This costume is most likely the last that Pavlova wore.


The tutu is beautifully made and has a green stone set in the centre. The layered skirts are covered in small sequins.

Queen Elizabeth views The Dying Swan costume at the Pavlova Commemorative Exhibition – November 1956.

2. Bancroft Library, San Francisco

A second Dying Swan costume forms part of a large collection of historic dance costumes and ephemera, collected by Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks b. 1903 – d.1963, and is now held at The Bancroft Library.

This gorgeous costume was on display last year at The Denver Art Museum where it formed part of the exhibition: Rhythm & Roots, Dance in American Art. This costume is very similar to that held at the MOL but has blue stones in the headdress and on the bodice.

The Paget-Fredericks Dance Collection contains roughly 2,000 original drawings, paintings, photographs and pieces of memorabilia, the majority of which date from ca. 1913 to ca. 1945.

The Pavlova costumes are on long-term loan to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from the Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks Dance Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Here is the link to the finding aid:


Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks b. 1903 – d.1963 was an American artist, designer, dancer and illustrator.

His mother, Constance, was a hostess to many great dancers visiting California and a keen collector. ‘She collected theater and dance memorabilia and art and the family home was said to contain numerous souvenirs of Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova (including many of her beautiful costumes for such ballets as “Swan,” “Giselle,” “Rondino,” and “Gavotte”).’

‘The San Francisco Chronicle indicated that Paget-Fredericks was to dance with Pavlova in Berlin in the winter of 1922, and would study with Bakst in Paris following that engagement (April 23, 1922, p. D4. “Dance concert to be novel event.”)
Paget-Fredericks attended Berkeley High School and, irregularly, the University of California. His autobiographical notes indicate he attended various schools and universities in Europe and that he studied art with Leon Bakst and John Singer Sargent.
Pavlova and Bakst were said to have sponsored his first show in Paris. In 1930, Paget-Fredericks records, he was invited to serve as Art Director for Pavlova’s world tours.’
 Information from :
Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks illustaation of Pavlova in The Swan.

3. Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra, Paris

A third costume is held at the Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra in Paris. The costume the library holds is believed to have been designed by Léon Bakst in 1907 for Pavlova.


Although very similar to the other two costumes the way the wings are set on this costume is quite different. The shoulders also appear to be decorated with a marabou style trim rather then individual feathers. I have not yet been able to trace the provenance of this costume.


You can see this costume on display now at Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra until the 5th of March 2017. The costume forms part of the exhibition Bakst: des Ballets russes à la haute couture.

A new swan …

Last year I was asked to source a replica of The Dying Swan costume for a jewellery launch at Kensington Palace Orangery. The costume I sourced was made for the production of A Portrait of Pavlova which was first performed in April 1989 by Ballet Creations. The company was founded by Richard Slaughter and Ursula Hageli with the aim to inspire audiences. The couple undertook extensive research to recreate some of her most famous, unique and well loved dances with input from former members of Pavlova’s own ballet company. The pair also recreated her costumes in astonishing detail.

The Dying swan costume had been beautifully made but had been stored in an attic for many years. I restored the costume, replacing many of the feathers on the bodice and steaming out ones on the wings. I was very happy with the result – I hope Pavlova would have been too!

The replica of Anna Pavlova’s Dying Swan tutu on display in December 2016.

Ballet Dolls

Since I was a teenager I have loved the idea of the making dolls dressed as characters from famous ballets. Last year I began making a small range of dolls and characters which I sell through my etsy shop, I also take custom orders:



Sylph doll inspired by Les Sylphides.



Doll inspired by Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes.



Doll inspired by New Adventures’ The Red Shoes.


Odette and Odile, black and white swans from Swan Lake.


History at the Hammond

I am currently working as researcher and historian for The Hammond Performing Arts School in Chester, UK. In 2017 the school is set to celebrate 100 years since it’s founder Miss Irene Hammond came to Chester. My role is to research the history of the school and  Hoole Bank House (where the school is now housed). I am also trying to gather as many memories from past students as possible.

When I began the school knew little about it’s rich history. My research has so far taken me to all manner of sources from Newspaper archives and the Chester regional records office to the archives of the RAD.

I am posting daily updates from my research on the new Facebook Centenary Page and the Hammond History Blog.

Here are a few insights:

The Hammond School

The first advert for Miss Hammond’s dance school in Chester.
June 1933
Miss Hammond’s students in 1933

Hoole Bank House

Hoole Bank Estate in 1869
The 1901 Census showing the Hayes family and their servants living at Hoole Bank Estate.
The House was run as a Red Cross Hospital from 1914 – 1919
Hoole Bank House was a YHA hostel from 1952 -1962

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