Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Ballets Russes: Advertising inspiration in the 1920s

Is this an early case of what we would now call copyright infringement in art direction and advertising?

This photograph shows Michel Fokine and Vera Fokina as they appeared in a Ballets Russes production of "Le Carnaval" in 1914. The photograph, credited to Jaeger was reporduced in the 1914 Royal Theatre Drury Lane, Illustrated Souvenir Programme of Russian Opera and Ballet. A French version of this season programme is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Above is an advertisement for Dubarry et Cie. Parfumeurs in London which appeared in the October 1920 issue of British Vogue. The painted illustration at its centre was clearly closely modeled on the Ballets Russes photograph, taken six years before the advertisement was published.

This rather remarkable instance of theatre imagery influencing fashion advertising is all the more extraordinary in light of the fact that these two samples were among a small collection of dress ephemera I have been working to preserve.

The Ballets Russes has been enjoying some intensity of attention in the past year, and is a lingering influence on the more theatrical contemporary designers. These two bits of paper nearly a century old, remind us that t Diaghilev's visionary company was already an inspiration during its golden age.