La Spectre de la Rose (1938). Edward Seago (English, 1910-1974). Oil on board.
La Spectre de la Rose takes its name from the eponymous ballet that Seago had seen in Monte Carlo, and formed part of an exhibition of ballet pictures that the artist exhibited in New York in 1938. It featured the dancers Serge Lifa and Tamara Toumanova who are depicted in this work.
George Barbier, plate depicting Tamara Karsavina and Vaslav Nijinski in Le Spectre de la Rose, in Jean-Louis Vaudoyer and George Barbier, Album Dédié á Tamar Karsavina (Paris: Pierre Corrard, 1914).
The ballet was first presented in Monte Carlo on 19 April 1911. Nijinsky danced The Rose and Karsavina danced The Young Girl. Spectre became internationally famous for the leap (jump) Nijinsky made through a window at the ballet’s end.
Her sketches of people tended to veer into caricature with their lively emphasis of all things out of the ordinary - a large nose, a double chin, a foppish gesture -, and had thus quickly been ruled unfit for display among polite company.
Thomas encouraged her to keep a rotating selection framed on a dresser in the chamber connecting their rooms.
It was a week into their affair that Miranda first sketched James.
One evening, James forgot his tricorn in her bedroom and the next time he visited, she sent him to the connecting chamber to fetch it. He re-emerged, face scarlet.
“Has Thomas seen the sketches?” he asked, twitching a restless hand at the dresser behind him, where a perfectly innocent profile of his face sat amid lush bursts of lilac blossoms and vicious caricatures of Thomas’ least favourite Members of Parliament.
“Only the ones that show little more than what he has already seen of you,” Miranda promised. She noticed the way his thumbs kept running along the swooping brim of the hat. “Why, would you give me permission to share the others? My dear husband does admire the sight of such well-honed strength as yours, love.”
Something hushed over James’ face, a spectre of what she sought to banish before all: shame.
Miranda rose from her seat. “James, I would never want to embarrass you. I assure you, I would never without your approval -”
“You have it,” he cut her off and fixed his eyes upon hers, proud and quietly stormy. “Show him. I’m sure the sight of a working man’s coarseness will inspire him when he is caught up in his own hard labours, talking policy over tepid tea with bewigged old men.”
And James put on his hat, all manners forgotten in his haste to leave, and kissed her roughly before sweeping out of the room.
Miranda sat down where she stood, stomach fluttering over the amalgam of upset and arousal that had been on his agitated tongue.
Part two of my series on disabled and gay or bisexual
[photo captions: Vaslav Nijinsky in costume for Le Spectre de la Rose (1911), Sergei Diaghilev in evening dress (date unknown), the two of them together, smiling, in a candid photograph (1911), family photograph of the Nijinsky siblings (from left: Stanislas, Bronislava, and Vaslav) (c. 1897)]
I have posted before about Vaslav Nijinsky, including last year for @disabilityfest, and now I’m back at it again with a wider-ranging post about disability in general, neurodivergence specifically, sexual orientation and the Ballets Russes dance movement–it’s a huge special interest for me and I’d love to share.
This post will focus primarily on relationships between
disabled people—both romantic and familial—which is a subject that I think is
very important to recognize. Believing that we can fully love and be loved and
that we deserve love is very hard for a lot of disabled people, and seeing
positive examples of relationships can be very empowering.
The two people I am primarily writing about are Sergei Diaghilev
(1872-1929) and Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950). They were both
prominent figures in the Ballets Russes, an avant-garde ballet company that
brought Russian art and dance talent to Europe and profoundly influenced 20th
century ballet and modern dance, and they were also romantically involved
with each other.
Portrait of the Ballerina Natalie Krassovska (1934). Savely Sorine (Russian, 1878-1953). Watercolour, heightened with white, coloured crayons and pencil on paper, laid on canvas.
Krassovska joined the Ballet Russe de Paris in 1935 and René Blum’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1936. In 1938, she became a member of the Massine-Denham Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. During her time with the troupe, Krassovska worked closely with Mikhail Fokine who coached her for roles in Les Sylphides, Le Spectre de la Rose and other ballets. She advanced to the position of principal dancer.