The influence of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes on the worlds of dance and music has been well-documented; less known today are the reverberations that the company’s productions sent straight to the heart of Parisian fashion and interior design. Schèhèrezade, the hit of the 1910 season, epitomized the exoticism of “le style ballets russes” for designers and their galvanized patrons.
The first, and perhaps the foremost, to espouse the company’s saturated hues, sumptuous fabrics, and seductive Orientalism was Paul Poiret, who daringly introduced harem pants and turbans (inset), with boldly colored silks and velvets. Poiret also popularized brightly colored interiors, replacing conventional furniture with divans and tasselled cushions.
The company’s visits to London had a similar impact. “Before you could say Nijinsky” Osbert Lancaster recalled in Homes, sweet homes (London: Murray, 1939) “the pastel shades which had reigned supreme on the walls of the Mayfair for almost two decades were replaced by a variety of barbaric hues—jade green, purple, every variety of crimson and scarlet, and, above all, orange.” He added that the style’s adherents had “a tendency to regard a room not so much as a place to live in, but as a setting for a party.”
This according to “The wider influence of the Russian ballet” by Stephen Calloway, an essay included in Diaghilev and the golden age of the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929 (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2010-20723).
Above, one of George Lepape’s illustrations for Les choses de Paul Poiret vues par Georges Lepape (Paris: 1911), a book commissioned and published by Poiret in a limited edition of 300.
When Elton John returned to London in 1991 after six weeks in an addiction recovery center it was essential to establish a new home that was free of associations with his former compulsive behavior. He rented Queensdale Place, fell in love with it, and bought and completely redecorated it with Biedermeier furniture and Regency and Neoclassical artwork.
Over the years Sir Elton’s passion turned to collecting photography and contemporary art, and in 2003 he decided that Queensdale would be the perfect context for exhibiting and enjoying his new collection. The auction of his former collection is documented in Elton John and his London lifestyle: London, Tuesday, 30 September 2003 (London: Sotheby’s, 2003).
Władziu Valentino Liberace’s Las Vegas home represented the democratization of aristocracy, a do-it-yourself coronation, the people’s palace. It is the apotheosis of décor as persona and persona as décor.
The Moroccan Room (above, click to enlarge) is a tile-and-glass atrium with Tivoli lights made from a sundeck that Liberace had always found either too hot or too cold. The large convex sofa in flame-stitch upholstery (foreground) sounds a proper note of sloe-eyed languor, while pairs of Italian-Baroque-style blackamoors—referred to by Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson as “harem boys”—support the fireplace mantel (left) and the candelabras that flank the bar (rear).
The main entrance to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’s exhibition Lou Reed: Caught between the twisted stars opens up on Lincoln Plaza, directly adjacent to the The Metropolitan Opera house. On a sunny day, the Met’s … Continue reading →
Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)* For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound, The first string I touch is for thee. The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound, The song from my heart … Continue reading →
Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →