Evoking The Afternoon of A Faun

“Nijinsky has never been so remarkable as in his latest role. No more jumps – nothing but half-conscious animal gestures and poses. He lies down, leans on his elbow, walks with bent knees, draws himself up, advancing and retreating, some-times slowly, sometimes with jerky angular movements. His eyes flicker, he stretches his arms, he opens his hands out flat, the fingers together, and as he turns away his head he continues to express his desire with a deliberate awkwardness that seems natural. Form and meaning are indissolubly wedded in his body, which is totally expressive of the mind within… His beauty is that of antique frescoes and sculptures: he is the ideal model, whom one longs to draw and sculpt.”

Auguste Rodin

 

Programme illustration by Léon Bakst for the ballet

 

The ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun)was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Ballets Russes and first performed in the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 29 May 1912. On the opening night the ballet was met with a mixture of applause and booing, and again it was repeated. Now the audience applauded, and Auguste Rodin in the audience stood up to cheer.

Nijinsky danced the main part himself. As its score it used the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by Claude Debussy. Both the music and the ballet were inspired by the poem L’Après-midi d’un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé. The painter Odilon Redon, friend of Mallarmé, suggested how much the poet would have approved, “more than anyone, he would have appreciated this wonderful evocation of his thoughts.”

 

 

The costumes and sets were designed by the painter Léon BakstL’Après-midi d’un Faune is considered one of the first modern ballets and proved to be as controversial as Nijinsky’s Jeux (1913) and Le Sacre du printemps (1913).

The style of the ballet, in which a young faun meets several nymphs, flirts with them and chases them, was deliberately archaic. In the original scenography designed by Léon Bakst, the dancers were presented as part of a large tableau, a staging reminiscent of an ancient Greek vase painting. They often moved across the stage in profile as if on a bas relief. The ballet was presented in bare feet and rejected classical formalism. The work had an overtly erotic subtext beneath its façade of Greek antiquity, ending with a scene of graphic sexual desire.

The ballet was developed as a possible new production for the Ballets Russes founded by Sergei Diaghilev. Most of the dances performed by the company were choreographed by Michel Fokine, who had worked as a choreographer with the Imperial Russian Ballet, from which all the different specialists for the new ballet company had come. Initially the Ballet Russes took advantage of the 3 months summer break, when the Imperial ballet closed and its staff were free to do other things, to stage ballet and opera in Paris. Diaghilev was looking around for an alternative to the style which Fokine customarily delivered and decided to allow his senior male dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky, to try his hand at choreography.

 

Menelaus intending to strike Helen is struck by her beauty instead. Louvre museum, Campana collection acquired 1861

 

The original idea was developed by Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Bakst and was inspired by the artwork on ancient Greek vases and Egyptian and Assyrian frescoes which they viewed in the Louvre museum. Bakst had already worked with Vsevolod Meyerhold, an innovative theatre producer and director who had introduced concepts like two-dimensionality, stylized postures, a narrow stage, pauses and pacing to emphasise significant moments, into his productions. Ninjinsky’s aim was to reproduce the stylised look of the ancient artworks on the stage. In his portrayal of the faun, Nijinsky managed to reproduce exactly the figure of a satyr shown on Greek vases in the Louvre. Such concepts appear transferred to ballet.

Jean Cocteau helped to explain the Mallarmé poem (Nijinsky spoke little French) and with developing a scenario for the ballet. The music by Debussy already existed in a fully orchestrated form. After the summer season in Paris, Nijinsky returned to St Petersburg for the new Russian season and there started to work on the choreography with the help of his sister, Bronislava Nijinska, who was herself a senior dancer and who later choreographed her own ballets for Ballets Russes. Nijinsky was much excited about the project.

 

Cartoon by Daniel de Losques published in Le Figaro, 30 May 1912

 

Nijinsky as the Faun, illustrations by George Barbier, 1913

 

Baron de Meyer  published a book of photographs of the ballet

 

The nymph dance in the dream sequence of the film Sunnyside (Charlie Chaplin, 1919) has been recognized as being a tribute to the ballet

 

A pastiche of the ballet (choreographed by the then leader of the Royal Ballet, Wayne Eagling, a friend of Mercury who had helped him before with the choreography of the Bohemian Rhapsody) forms part of the music video for Queen’s single I Want to Break Free (David Mallet, 1984). Freddie Mercury dances the role of the faun, with dancers from the Royal Ballet also performing, including Jeremy Sheffield. Mercury shaved his trademark moustache to portray Vaslav Nijinsky as a faun in the ballet L’après-midi d’un faune.

 

Queen’s video can be seen on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

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Under the Charm of Scheherazade

The mystery never ends, it cannot end. That´s why it is called a mystery, it cannot be known ever. It will never become knowledge, that´s why it is called a mystery; something in it is eternally elusive. And that´s the whole joy of life. The great splendor of life is that it keeps you eternally engaged, searching, exploring. Life is exploration, life is adventure.

The legendary Persian Queen Scheherazade is a gorgeous example of this wonderful, intelligent and creative mystery called life. Her amazing story featured in One Thousand and One Nights (هزارافسانه), is an inspiration to generations of story tellers, movies makers, musicians, painters and poets. It will remain so, forever and ever and ever.

Scheherazade (شهرزاد‎) is a female name meaning "of noble lineage" in old Persian, or "born in the city" in modern Persian.

 
 

Model wearing Schiaparelli’s asymmetrical evening dress at Schéhérazade club, Paris

 
 

Photo taken at Schéhérazade club by Roger Schall, 1940

 
 

Art Nouveau poster

 
 

Edmund Dulac

 
 

Virginia Frances Sterett

 
 

Umberto Brunelleschi

 
 

Erté

 
 

Léon Bakst

 
 

Vaslav Nijinsky and Ida Rubinstein in ballet adaptation of Sheherazade premiered on June 4, 1910, at the Opéra Garnier in Paris by the Ballets Russes. The choreography for the ballet was by Michel Fokine and the libretto was from Fokine and Léon Bakst, who also designed sets and costumes

 
 

Nijinsky

 
 

Nijinsky by Georges Lepape

 
 

Sleeve design for Rimsky Korsakov’s symphonic suite recorded by The Philadelphia Orchestra. Phillips

 
 

Nijinsky in the role of the negro slave in the ballet Sherezade by Rimski Korsakov, George Barbier

 
 

George Barbier

 
 

Paul Mak

 
 

John Austen

 
 

Alberto Vargas

 
 

José Segrelles

 
 

Sophie Anderson

 
 

Richard Corben

 
 

Franz Helbing

 
 

Edouard Frederic Wilhelm Richter

 
 

Elizabeth Taylor in disguise

 
 

Directed by Walter Reisch

 
 

J. Jones

 
 

Willy Pogany

 
 

René Magritte

The Peacock Enthroned

Earthquake Damage. Lily Cole photographed by Tim Walker in Whadwhan Palace, Gujarat (India), 2005

 
 

La Grande Odalisque, 1814,  Jean AugusteDominique Ingres

 
 

The Peacock Room, 1876-7, James McNeill Whistler

 
 

The Peacock Throne is the most notable piece of furniture of the Moorish Kiosk, a building located at Linderhoff Palace in Bavaria, Germany. It’s the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria

 
 

Illustration of Sir Vane Peacock, JJ Grandville, 1852

 
 

The Kiss, 1896 Will Bradley

 
 

Aubrey Beardsley

 
 

Alphons Mucha

 
 

Kimono by Iida Takashimaya. Circa 1904-1908

 
 

Erté

 
 

George Barbier

 

bilibinIllustration to a Russian fairy tale about Жар-птица (The Firebird), 1899, by Ivan Bilibin

 
 

Walter Crane

 
 

Orson Lowell

 
 

The Majestic Peacock, by Elisabeth Sonrel

 
 

Vogue Cover , March 18, 1909 as illustrated by James St. John

 
 

George Wolf Plank, 1911

 
 

Frank Xavier Leyendecker, 1921

 
 

Page from Winter 1965 Lanctan catalogue, illustration by Paul Christadoulou

 
 

Flapper style headdress

 
 

Photo credit: Art Kane

 
 

Katharine Hepburn. Photo: Cecil Beaton, 1961

 
 

Gabrielle Coco Chanel. Photo by Boris Lipnistki

 
 

Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes)

 
 

Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. Cover by Mark Ryden

On Her Knees

 
 

A flapper girl from Baltimore posing with her boyfriend’s photograph printed on her pantyhose (tights). Inasmuch as the length of hems was getting shorter, legs became the focal point of the women’s body during the Jazz Age. Embroidered or printed pantyhose was the fashion. Nylon or cotton plaid socks were mainly worn to sporting activities.

In the 60’s when miniskirts arrived, legs were embellished again.

 
 

L’Hiver ( a.k.a. “Winter: Lovers in the Snow”), George Barbier, Twentieth Century France, 1925.

 
 

Ralph Lauren Autumn/Winter 2012-2013

The Illustrated Flapper

Life cover Magazine by Frank Xavier Leyendecker, 1922

 
 

Saturday Evening Post cover,by Ellen Bernard Thompson Pyle of Wilmington. February 4, 1922

 
 

Norman Rockwell

 
 

Penrhyn Stanlaws

 
 

Russell Patterson

 
 

Ethel Hays

 
 

George Wolfe Plank

 
 

Georges Lepape

 
 

George Barbier

 
 

Panels from Flapper Philosophy  by Faith Burrows. They ran in competition with Ethel Hays’s similarly themed Flapper Fanny Says

 
 

John Held Jr.