Vaslav Nijinsky signed and dated 'Jean Cocteau 1910-1951' (lower right), pencil 25.5 x 20cm (10 1/16 x 7 7/8in).
EXHIBITED: Paris, Le Salon des Peintres du Spectacle, 1995 Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 1989, no.421
Born in the Ukraine, Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950) trained at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg. After a fortuitous meeting with Serge Diaghilev (see lots 11 and 12) he, Anna Pavlova and several other dancers travelled to Paris in 1909 to perform a season of Russian ballet. The success of this led Diaghilev to form Les Ballets Russes. Over the coming years Nijinsky not only continued to dance (he was one of the few male dancers of the time who could perform en pointe) but his choreography moved ballet towards a more modern, angular style, likened to "anti-ballet". The Rite of Spring (1913) typified this, with the premiere causing a riot, something that Diaghilev was thrilled by, although much of the subsequent reporting of the incident was probably over-dramatized via Cocteau's influence for added publicity. After a nervous breakdown in 1919 Nijinsky was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and spent the rest of his live in various asylums. He was buried in Montmartre, where a bronze depicting him as Petrouchka, donated by Serge Lifar, sits on his grave.