Jacques-Émile Blanche (French, 1861-1942)
Jacques-Émile Blanche (French, 1861-1942)
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Jacques-Émile Blanche (French, 1861-1942)

Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Danse Siamoise' 

Details
Jacques-Émile Blanche (French, 1861-1942)
Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Danse Siamoise' 
signed 'J. E. Blanche' (lower right)
oil on canvas
87 x 47 5/8 in. (221 x 121 cm.)
Painted circa 1911
Provenance
The artist.
The Honorable Daisy Fellowes (Mrs. Reginald Fellowes, 1890-1963), Paris, acquired directly from the above at the Salon of 1911.
By descent through her family.
Their sale; Christie's, London, 28 November 1986, lot 103, as Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Danse Orientale.'
Daniel Katz, London.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 25 May 1995, lot 64, as Vaslav Nijinsky in Michel Fokine's 'Danse Siamoise' from the divertissement 'Les Orientales', or 'Le Baiser Sacramentel de l'Idole.'
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above.
Literature
L. Vauxcelles, 'Les Arts: Exposition Jacques Blanche,' Gil Blas, 25 February 1912, p. 3, as Nijinsky.
R. Nijinsky, Nijinsky, New York, 1934, p. 113.
F. Reiss, Nijinsky, London, 1960, pp. 77, 80, fig. 10, illustrated, as Nijinsky in 'Sheherazade.'
R. Buckle, Nijinsky, New York, 1971, p. 151, no. 31, illustrated.
R. Buckle, Diaghilev, New York, 1979, p. 273, as Les Orientales.
B. Nijinska, Early Memoires, New York, 1981, p. 305.
G. Ashton, Catalogue of Paintings at the Theater Museum, London, London, 1992, p. 96, no. 65, illustrated, as Vaslav Nijinsky in Michel Fokine's 'Danse Siamoise' from the divertissement 'Les Orientales.'
F. Stanciu-Reiss and J.-M. Pourvoyeur, Ecrits sur Nijinsky, Paris, 1992, pp. 42-44, no. 62, illustrated p. 237 and on the cover, as La Danse Siamoise.
M. Bialek, Jacques-Emile Blanche à Offranville: peintre-écrivain, Offranville, 1997, p. 57, illustrated, as Vaslav Nijinski à Auteuil.
Jacques-Émile Blanche, peintre (1861-1942), Paris, 1997, p. 158, fig. 2, illustrated, as Le Baiser de l'idole.
J. Roberts, Jacques-Émile Blanche, London, 2012, pp. 142-143, illustrated, as Vaslav Nijinsky dans la 'Danse siamoise' (Les Orientales) ou Le Baiser de l'idole.
A. Madet-Vache, 'Jacques-Émile Blanche et ses modèles, la Normandie et Deauville,' Jacques-Émile Blanche, portraitiste de la Belle Époque, Deauville, 2016, pp. 44-45, illustrated, as Vaslav Nijinsky dans la 'Danse Siamoise' (Les Orientales) or Le Baiser de l'Idole.
Y. Farinaux-Le Sidaner, Derniers impressionnistes: le temps de l'intimité, Saint-Rémy-en-L'Eau, 2018, p. 129, illustrated, as Vasla Nijinsky dans 'Les Orientales.'
Exhibited
Paris, Grand Palais, La Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, April 16-June 30 1911, no. 130, as Vaslaw Nijinski.
London, The Fine Art Society, Portraits of Nijinsky by Various Artists, March 1914, no. 30, as Nijinsky in La Danse Orientale (full length).
Paris, Hotel de Jean Charpentier, Peintures, pastels et lithographies de Jacques-Émile Blanche, 3-28 March 1924, no. 52, as Vaslaw Nijinsky.
Paris, Pavillon de Marsan and Palais du Louvre, organized by Musée des Arts décoratifs, Ballet russes de Diaghilev, 1909-1929, March-June 1939, no. 137, as Nijinsky.
Edinburgh, Forbes House, Diaghilev, August-September 1954, no. 501, as Nijinsky in his costume for the 'divertissement, Les Orientales.'
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Diaghilev: les ballets russes, 17 May-29 July 1979, no. 93, as Nijinsky dans 'les Orientales.'
London, Royal Academy, Royal Opera House Retrospective 1732-1982, 7 December 1982-6 February 1983, no. 88, as Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Danse Orientale.'
Paris, Musée-Galerie de la Seita, Nijinsky, 'un dieu danse à travers moi,' 15 December 1989-17 February 1990, pp. 13 and 125, as Les Orientales and Portait en pied de Nijinsky.
London, Theater Museum, on long-term loan, 1989-1995.
London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929, 25 September 2010-9 January 2011, pp. 192-193, no. 121, as Vaslav Nijinsky in Siamese Dance.
Washington, D.C., The National Gallery, Diaghilev and the Ballet russes 1909-1929, 12 May-2 September 2013, pp. 192-193, no. 121, as Vaslav Nijinsky in Siamese Dance.

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Lot Essay

‘Whoever has seen Nijinsky dance remains forever impoverished by his absence.’ – Anna de Noailles

The first performances in Paris in 1909 of the Ballets Russes, now considered the most influential ballet company of the 20th century, created a sensation amongst the beau monde which would reverberate far beyond the world of dance. The company’s productions would reinvigorate the arts of dance, choreography, and musical composition in the first half of the 20th century and would engage in groundbreaking collaborations for their time with the era’s most important visual artists, designers, and couturiers. The Ballets Russes commissioned works from composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, and Sergei Prokofiev, artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Alexandre Benois, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, and costume designers Léon Bakst and Coco Chanel.
Sergei Diaghilev, the company’s impresario, had mounted the first major exhibition of Russian art in the west in Paris in 1906 which had created a vogue for all things Russian in the French capital. In 1909, Diaghilev presented his first Saison Russe devoted exclusively to ballet, featuring resident performers from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg who performed in Paris during that company's summer holidays. Among the dancers featured in this first season was the legendary Vaslav Nijinsky, who is still considered the most talented dancer in the history of the Ballets Russes and perhaps the most talented male dancer of the 20th century. Towards the end of 1910 while in his second season with the company and when the present work was conceived, Nijinsky was, according to Bakst, ‘L'Idole du public.’ His name was known throughout Paris and students at the Academy of Beaux-Arts simply referred to him as ‘Dieu de la danse.’ Accordingly, he was offered tailor-made roles in the Ballets Russes – he danced the role of the ‘Golden Slave’ in Schéhérazade, a fairy-like creature in Le Pavillon d'Armide and Les Sylphides, and ultimately as the sensual slave in Les Orientales. In the present portrait, Nijinsky wears the Bakst-designed costume for La Danse Siamoise which was one of two solos he performed in Les Orientales.
Les Orientales had been inspired by a performance of a troupe of dancers sent by King Chulatonqkorn of Siam to St. Petersburg in 1900. This performance had an enormous influence on Ballets Russes choreographer Michael Fokine and set and costume designer Léon Bakst, who wanted to express the exotic, gestural choreography and appearance of the dancers through the lens of more traditional performative ballet. Nijinsky’s two solos in the ballet were La Danse Siamoise, which was accompanied by music by Sinding, and Kobold, which was danced to a piano piece by Grieg and orchestrated by Stravinsky. Following its opening at the Opéra in Paris on 25 June 1910 José de Berys wrote in Comaedia, ‘Ce sont des images d'Orient, chatoyantes, lumineuses, évocatrices descontaines Asies, des levants dorés et des Arabis heureses sous les ciels d'outremer.’
Jacques-Émile Blanche was one of the first artists, along with Pierre Bonnard, Kees van Dongen, and Jules Flandrin, to take the dancers of the Ballets Russes as his subject. Blanche was an ardent supporter of the Ballets Russes from its earliest days and was nicknamed ‘Parrain des Ballets Russes,’ by Diaghilev. As a result, he was given special access to any rehearsals or performances he wished to attend. In June of 1910, Blanche and his wife hosted a luncheon in honor of several of the dancers from the company – among them Nijinsky, Ida Rubinstein, and the company’s prima ballerina, Tamara Karsavina. The dancers traveled with a small entourage, including the photographer Eugène Druet, to Blanche's house in Auteuil, and this luncheon provided the premier pensée for present portrait of Najinsky, the largest and most impressive portrait in Blanche’s oeuvre.
Blanche first asked the dancer to pose in his garden, where fellow Ballets Russes collaborator Debussy had been inspired to compose Jardin sous la pluie. Blanche recalled, 'dès que le lad se fut costumé en siamois, rouge, or et bleu papillon, l'assistance exulta. Un être surnaturel suspendu entre les marronniers en fleurs et le gazon virevoait autour des rhododendrons, il semblait butiner comme une abeille.’ Druet took a number of photographs of Nijinsky in his costume, as Blanche was unable to convince the dancer to pose for studio sessions. Of the nineteen photographs produced during this visit eleven are conserved by the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris and seven by the New York Public Library, Lincoln Center, Dance Collection, Dodge Collection (fig. 1).
Nijinsky posed in the costume for La Danse Siamoise, however Blanche was ultimately not as pleased with the photographs taken in the garden as he was with the three which were taken in the artist’s elegant drawing room. Blanche’s salon was considered ‘un des plus beaux de Paris’ and the dancer told Blanche's wife how much he had enjoyed posing in this setting as well. As seen in the present painting, Nijinsky was framed against a sumptuous screen of Coromandel lacquer, standing on an oriental rug, displaying l'idole du public in a setting which evoked, in Blanche's words, ‘luxe, calme et volupté,’ much like the setting in the Getty home where the painting has been displayed. Blanche christened the present work Le Baiser de l'Idole, and it remains the most complete and successful portrait of Nijinsky produced from his studies. With the photographs to return to as reference material, Blanche revisited the subject of Nijinsky a number of times, but the artist recorded in his memoirs that later almost all of his other paintings of the dancer were lost at sea, when in 1915 the ship they were traveling on, possibly the Lusitania, was torpedoed and sunk while en route to New York.
Blanche's portrayal truly captures the dancer's spirit, as Arsène Alexandre so elegantly described in The Figaro, 15 April 1911: ‘One of the merits that seem to me the most striking in the beautiful portrait of the Russian dancer Nijinsky, by Mr. Jacques Blanche, is not so much his rich and sustained color as the surprising perception by the artist of the most expressive characteristics, the most elusive and difficult to make one feel...To perceive and express all these nuances hidden under clear-cut appearances, we needed Mr. Jacques Blanche's lively and varied intelligence, his unceasingly awakened curiosity, and the gifts of understanding that have gradually given him the resources of a profession that is never caught unprepared, that dares to say everything because it knows how to say everything.’
In many ways, there could perhaps have been no better painting to anchor the Getty living room than this extraordinary portrait. Drawing on the room’s chinoiserie elements and themes of Russian dance, which recur throughout Ann Getty’s interiors, the work hung in pride of place in a room which is reminiscent of Blanche’s own celebrated salon. The Blanche is also a reflection of the Getty’s longstanding passions for music and dance, and creates a dialogue with the adjacent music room, which houses Rudolf Nureyev’s collections. Blanche’s masterpiece evokes the ‘luxe, calme et volupté’ that the artist sought in his own interiors and which Ann Getty so effortlessly captured in her own.
We are grateful to Jane Roberts for authenticating this painting and for her assistance with the cataloguing. The work is included in her digital Jacques-Émile Blanche catalogue raisonné as no. 122.

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