“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes a distinctive treasure like this Sleeping Beauty in a brilliant Dresden-paper trimmed glass case!
Dating circa 1870, the origins of this piece are shrouded in mystery, so we can only do our best to put its singular wonder into words.
The focal point of this creation is a tiny German parian head Princess lying upon a bed – her head resting on a lace-trimmed pillow. We can tell you that Sleeping Beauty is an entire doll, measuring about four inches long (on a cloth body with painted flat feet), and the shoulderhead itself features molded blonde hair with long floss tresses attached, plus painted blue eyes and rosy cheeks. Her clothing consists of a once-bright pink robe that has faded to soft pink, worn over a lace and Dresden paper edged gown of metallic gold threads. She wears a strand of pearl beads around her neck and a Dresden paper crown upon her head.
Four paper flower pots stand guard at each corner of her bed, while two floral bowers extend the length of her paper-covered platform.
The glass case itself is an engineering feat, composed of nine panels that were first edged in cotton, then joined together with various fancy papers.
Slumbering away in the safely and sanctity of her glass home, Sleeping Beauty will continue to do so, undisturbed, for centuries to come.
I don’t think you will be hearing from me much for the next few weeks! We are making ballet tutus, which I’m rather excited about! I spent all day cutting my fabric layers out to prep for next week and I still have to finish cutting the soft tulle.
Wish me luck and patience!
Costume design for a Lady in Waiting in ‘The Sleeping Princess’ ballet
Designed by Léon Bakst
Museum no. S776 - 1980
Bakst’s brilliance in designing period costume is eclipsed by the popularity of his exotic and sensuous evocations of the Orient and ancient Greece. This costume for a Lady in Waiting in the 1921 Diaghilev Ballet production of ‘The Sleeping Princess’ (i.e. ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ - Diaghilev changed the title declaring that not all his princesses were beauties) shows his extraordinary colour sense: surely such a bold colour would draw the audience’s eye away from the principal dancers? But on stage it was balanced out by other bold colours, like the Royal Nurses in deep sapphire blue. The costume is given a contemporary twist by its asymmetry, which is strictly historically inaccurate.
The making in velvet and silver metal lining and trims is exquisite, and its elegance and style have not diminished. Unfortunately, silver metallic fabrics deteriorate and the fibres become bent and creased and there is nothing that can be done to restore them. The fabrics were, of course, chosen for their suitability for a theatrical production which was expected to have a limited life and no one could ever have envisaged them ending up in major museums around the world.
Extra costume for the Sleeping Princess which choreographed by Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes in Moscow, Russia.
Ballets Russes productions in the early 20th century were costly with all the elaborate costuming, and “The Sleeping Princess” was one of the last of these extravagantly presented ballets.