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.

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.

A New Carabosse

In less then two weeks Alexei Ratmansky’s production of The Sleeping Beauty  for American Ballet Theatre will open at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa, California. Ratmansky’s version  of the Imperial Russian classic is based on the 1921 production staged by the Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. Diaghilev created many links to the original 1890 production through both the choreography and the dancers. Former ballerina Carlotta Brianza, who had danced the role of Aurora in the 1890 production, now danced the role of the wicked fairy Carabosse. On the 5th of January 1922 Diaghilev persuaded Maestro Cecchetti to perform the role of Carabosse to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a dancer. Cecchetti had created both the role of Carabosse and the Bluebird in the 1890 production.

Enrico Cecchetti in the role of Carabosse
Enrico Cecchetti in the role of Carabosse

Designer Richard Hudson has used Leon Bakst’s original design for Carabosse as the basis for his new design. Please have a look at this video of Hudson talking about his designs –

Leon Bakst's design for Carabossse
Leon Bakst’s design for Carabosse
Richard Hudson's design for Carabosse
Richard Hudson’s design for Carabosse

The beautiful original costume for the role of Carabosse in now housed at the Museum of London.

Photograph of the surviving Carabosse costume and page from the 1968 Sotheby's auction catalogue
Photograph of the  Carabosse costume and page from the 1968 Sotheby’s auction catalogue
The surviving costume housed at the Museum of London
The surviving costume housed at the Museum of London


Shirt Tails

Detail of utility shirt
Detail of a utility shirt

I was recently asked to research working-class men’s shirts for a company that is interested in re-making them for sale. After researching shirts from 1840 to 1940 the company selected 1940s utility shirts as the ones I was to create a detailed report on. I knew about utility clothing but had never researched it and found the project fascinating. I undertook my research in the London College of Fashion archives, Museum of London and Imperial War Museum. Shirts are an often overlooked garment in fashion history, most likely due to the minor changes in styles and utilitarian nature. During the Second World War, however, there absolute necessity caused the Government to create laws solely surrounding the production of shirts.

CC41 logo
CC41 logo

The shirts I studied were issued under the CC41 logo and were collarless with a front opening and long tails. The CC41 (Controlled Commodity) utility logo first appeared towards the end of 1941 and was issued by the British Board of Trade. The logo appeared on all clothing made in accordance with government regulations.

It wasn’t until April 1942 that the board issued a pamphlet outlining the new regulations surrounding the making of men’s collarless shirts. The laws dictated that men’s and boy’s shirts could not have:

  • Double cuffs
  • Double fronts
  • Pockets
  • Starched neck band
  • Sleeve guards
  • Or more than two buttons on the front placket excluding button (if any) for fastening neckband.
CC41 cotton utility shirt. Museum of London 45.30.1a.
CC41 cotton utility shirt. Museum of London 45.30.1a.

There were also laws dictating how long the tails could be in relation to the neck band. This was all in an effort to conserve fabric, construction time and free up factory space.  It is amazing to think of the Government controlling something so every day and echoes the sumptuary laws.

The regulations  would continue till 1949. Eventually cotton coat opening styles of shirts would overtake the earlier tunic style made of wool.

The Imperial War museum is putting on a exhibition of war-time utility clothing this year called ‘Fashion on the Ration’ – opening on the 3rd of March 2014. Here is the link:


Hooks and Bars

Here are some lovely photographs of one of the Mazurka costumes from Act 5 of the 1921 production of the Sleeping Princess, designed by Bakst. There were originally 12 Mazurka Ladies in this scene.

These costume are now all over the world including the Museum of London, National Gallery of Australia, Wadsworth Atheneum and Dansmuseet Stockholm.

Mazurka Lady costume


DSCF1113 DSCF1114 DSCF1124DSCF1126Logo

Waking the Sleeping Princess

Detail from Carabosses skirt, Sleeping Princess, 1921.
Detail from Carabosse’s skirt, Sleeping Princess, 1921.

In February last year I was asked by designer Richard Hudson and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky to research the Ballets Russes’ 1921 production of the Sleeping Princess (Sleeping Beauty) for a new reinterpretation of the ballet. The production was originally designed by Leon Bakst and  no expense was spared. The new ballet is a joint venture between American Ballet Theatre and La Scala Milan and will open in March this year. I have always wanted to work for these companies, and to be working for both at once is amazing! The new ballet is going to be in the style of the original but for this to happen both Ratmansky and Hudson needed to know what the original looked like.

Some pages from research into the original costumes
Some pages from research into the original costumes
Richard Hudson's new design for the Aurora in the Rose Adagio
Richard Hudson’s new design for the Aurora in the Rose Adagio
Bakst's design for Aurora in the Rosa Adagio, 1921.
Bakst’s design for Aurora in the Rosa Adagio, 1921.

I had six weeks to research the sets, props and costumes of this huge production, which had run for over one hundred performances at the Alhambra Theatre in London before closing as a financial failure in 1922. The ballet contained six changes of scene and over 300 costumes. It was like trying to put together a jigsaw without seeing the image on the box! Few photographs survive and I had to rely on first-hand accounts, illustrations and the surviving costumes.  A link to the surviving costumes housed at the National Gallery of Australia.

After the ballet’s early closure the costumes and sets were impounded by Oswald Stoll. Even after their return to the company the ballet was never performed in its entirety again. The costumes, with many others from the Ballets Russes, were sold in three auctions through Sotheby’s in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The lots were prepared quickly and as a result many were sold without correct attribution. A lot of my work, over the last few years, has involved re-attributing these costumes. They are the last thing that can tell us what this amazing company looked  like and how it functioned.

The original costumes from the Sleeping Princess are now housed in public and private collection all over the world including the V&A, Museum of London, Dans Museet Stockholm, National Gallery of Australia and Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.

This new Ballets Russes inspired production of the Sleeping Princess, which will return to the title of Sleeping Beauty, opens on the 3rd of March in  California, the 19th of May in New York and on the 26th of September in Milan.

I hope Diaghilev would approve!



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