The Ballets Russes Company, under the direction of impresario Serge Diaghilev, had a major impact on the nature of ballet in the western world from the early years of the 20th Century. Employing the most talented and creative dancers, choreographers, designers and composers, the company created spectacles of sound, colour and movement, often with an oriental or folk tale theme, that they toured throughout Europe and America.
This sash is sadly now separated from its original costume for a knight of the court, designed by Alexandre Benois for the Ballets Russses’ production Le Pavillon d’Armide. The vivid green silk is painted with diagonal stripes, outlined in silver, and silver spots; each end is weighted with metallic fringing. The tacked on label (See Additional Images) is characteristic of those found in the company’s costumes at this period, handwritten in ink, with the name of the production underlined and the character beneath. Some also include the scene in which the costume appears, and the name of the dancer. The sash is also stamped with a German customs stamp reading ‘Direktion des Russischen Balletts Sergei von Diaghilews’. These are frequently seen on the linings of Ballets Russes costumes dating between 1909 and 1912.
A photograph of the dress rehearsal of Le Pavillon d’Armide taken in 1909 and one of Benois’ designs for the ballet show the ‘Seigneurs’ of the court wearing fringed striped sashes much like ours. Given that the naming of the Ballets Russes characters was sometimes inconsistent, and a ‘chevalier’, a knight, and a ‘seigneur’, a nobleman, were both high ranking courtiers, its possible that they were interchangeable and our sash belonged to one of the outfits seen in the photograph and design.
For more information on Le Pavillon d’Armide see Related Items.