Nijinsky as the Faun in L’apres Midi d’un faune , 1912
Under Sergei Diaghilev’s directorship, the Ballet Russes (1909-1929) became one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th century. Diaghilev took many risks, in his musical selection and choreography (he was an early patron of Balanchine), but most interestingly to me, in his patronage of young Russian artists, who he hired as set and costume designers. Perhaps the most celebrated designer for the Ballet Russes was Leon Bakst, a painter well-known for his portraiture. Vaslav Nijinsky was one of the most recognized male dancer in the troupe and Bakst’s design for Nijinsky’s Faun costume is Bakst’s best known design. The drawing itself features the sinuous, organic lines so iconic of the art nouveau period. I also love the image for it’s sense of movement — how appropriate for a design destined to be worn by the human body.
You can watch a performance of l’apres-midi d’un faune here, the costumes and sets are based on Bakst’s original 1912 designs.