Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)
Etude de costume pour 'le Magicien Chinois' dans le ballet PARADE, étude pour le dos du costume
signed 'Picasso' (upper right)
pencil on paper
26.8 x 19.5cm (10 9/16 x 7 11/16in).
Executed in 1917
- In January 1917 Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes, approached Picasso to design the costumes and set for his one-act ballet Parade. Picasso agreed 'to undertake the production (sets, curtains, costumes, and properties) of the ballet', thereby marking his debut as a designer for the stage. (The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: From Cubism to Neoclassicism 1917-1919, San Francisco, 1995, p.viii).
Composed by Erik Satie, choreographed by Léonide Massine and with a libretto by Jean Cocteau, Parade would open in Paris in May 1917 to a mix of scandal and acclaim. Picasso had worked on his designs in February of that year whilst living in Rome with his fellow contributors, and it was here that he met his future wife Olga Khokhlova, a dancer in Diaghilev's troupe.
The present lot shows the back of the costume for the Chinese Conjuror, for which Picasso sketched several studies. Whilst this work shows a more simplified design, the final costume featured a vivid red jacket with a gold sunburst and wide striped trousers. The artist also noted his ideas for the character's make-up, with grotesquely exaggerated eyes and lips. Londoners became familiar with the Chinese Conjuror's costume when it was reproduced in colour on the posters for the Ballets Russes's 1919 summer season in Leicester Square. Picasso was said to be amused by the moustaches and other additions made to the posters on the underground by passers by.
A watercolour version of the present lot, showing the costume from the front, can be seen in the Tate Britain's current exhibition, 'Picasso and Modern British Art', which runs until 15 July 2012.