New York/London: John Lane Company/ John Lane The Bodley Head Limited, 1921. Limited first edition. Hardcover. 1/450. Folio. (xv)  131pp.  [+ 56 plates]. White buckram over purple/ multicolored decorative paper boards. Gilt lettering on the spine. Top edge of book block gilt. Pages uncut. This is #40 from a limited edition of 450 numbered copies. Frontispiece contains a b/w photographic reproduction after a painted portrait of Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev (1872 - 1929), by Valentin Serov.
A finely produced monograph on the pioneering Paris-based Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet), founded in 1909 by Sergei Diaghilev. Widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century, it produced many acclaimed productions which were the result of groundbreaking artistic collaborations across various fields, between choreographers, dancers, composers, and fine artists. Among the astounding group of talents that were involved at various points in company's history included composers Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Sergei Prokofiev, Erik Satie, and Maurice Ravel, artists Vasily Kandinsky, Alexandre Benois, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Léon Bakst, and costume designer Coco Chanel. Dancers included Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Olga Spessivtseva, Mathilde Kschessinska, Ida Rubinstein, Bronislava Nijinska, Lydia Lopokova, Diana Gould, Sophie Pflanz, and Alicia Markova. Choreographers involved included such acclaimed figures as Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska, Léonide Massine, and most famously the world-renowned dancer/choreography Vaslav Nijinsky. The company's premiere performance of The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps), on May 29th, 1913 has become known as among the most notorious scandals in modern theatrical history, and its original music by Stravinsky has been widely hailed as among the most important musical works of the 20th century.
The text discusses the history of the company, and is organized into sections according to various artistic figures involved. The work contains a number of original lithographic black and red avant-garde illustrations by Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) throughout, including an elaborate illustrated title plate (on the page following the title), and additional smaller abstract tailpieces. Interleaved throughout the text are 5 full-page tissue-guarded plates containing b/w collotype reproductions after original illustrated portraits of founder Sergei Diaghilev (frontispeice), Vaslav Nijinsky, Leonide Massine (By Pablo Picasso, Tamara Karsavina, and Igor Stravinsky. The final text section, by English conductor and composer Sir Eugene Aynsley Goossens (1893-1962), is devoted to the original music composed for the company's various productions. Also inluded are a table of contents, a detailed list of illustrations, a full chronological list of the company's productions up until that point, and an index.
The unpaginated final section of the book contains a glorious collection of 56 plates containing a total of 63 tipped in reproductions after original costume and stage designs by Léon Bakst, Alexandre Benois, André Derain, Fedorovsky, Aleksandr Golovin, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Nicholas Roerich, Valentin Serov, Josep Maria Sert and Serge Soudeikine. Most are in full color and many of these images contain fine over-painting in gilt and/or silver.
Binding with some some rubbing to extremities. Covers slightly scratched. Interior with starting at the beginning of the final illustrated plate section, however the book block is fairly tight overall. Pages clean overall. Binding in good+, interior in very good, condition overall. g+ to vg. Item #47672