The exhibition aims to tell the story of the cultural atmosphere and ambience of the Russian intelligentsia and the international prestige of Diaghilev’s famous Ballets Russes (1909-1929), the birth of which was celebrated at its centenary in 2009. More than 200 works will be presented in the evocative reception rooms of the main floor of Palazzo Mocenigo – Study Centre for the History of Textiles and Costume.
From costumes created for the Ballet Russes by noted artists Léon Bakst, Natalia Gončarova, and André Derain, to apparel created by émigré Russian nobles who fled to various countries in Europe in the aftermath of the Revolution, there also are many other garments, accessories, images and documentary materials from the collections of internationally renowned fashion historian and collector Alexandre Vassiliev, as well a selection of stage costumes and artworks by famous artists – including Léon Bakst, Alexander Benois and Trubenskoj – from the collection of celebrated dancer and choreographer Toni Candeloro who, in his twenty-five year international dance career, had the opportunity to meet some of the last generation of artists from the Ballets Russes, from whom he received gifts of artworks and choreographic lore.
Curated by Francesca Dalla Bernardina, with the invaluable collaboration of Noah Brand Energy, and organised by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, with the patronage of the Fondazione Italia Russia, the exhibition forms part of the celebrations of the “Year of Italian Language and Culture in Russia, and the Russian Language and Culture in Italy” (which throughout 2011 includes initiatives aimed at strengthening intercultural relations between Italy and Russia). The Vassiliev Collection is arriving in Italy for the first time, after enjoying a resounding success at the Tama Art University Museum in Tokyo in 2009.
The exhibition was born from the encounter between muscovite Alexandre Vassiliev – collector, set designer, costume designer and expert on the history of fashion and costume – and the Russianist Francesca Dalla Bernardina, thanks to the alchemy “magically” created between people who share a great love and passion for fashion as art as well as for the Russian culture. From the wonderful form of art that it is, fashion represents man “in his time” and the history of fashion therefore adds significance to the story of humanity revealing ethnic origins, the desire and need for beauty, influences and international relationships. And so it is for the early 20th century “Russian style”, which covers the years that saw the success of the renowned Ballet Russes company (1909-1929), in conjunction with the artistic passion of their great impresario, Serge Diaghilev, who had such an influence on the world of fashion in his time, being responsible for the “Oriental” style made popular in the performing arts all over Europe. To reveal this mixture of fascination, charm and elegance, in one of the most representative and sophisticated locations of Venice, always looking to the “East” – like Palazzo Mocenigo – a selection of costumes created by some of Europe’s “couture” houses whose origins date to the exile of Russian aristocratic families who moved all over Europe (particularly to Paris) after the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. The exhibition seeks to shed light on some new aspects of the Russian Revolution and, thanks to the great contribution by Alexandre Vassiliev – one of the major connoisseurs and collectors of Russian fashion from the early 20th century – highlighting that particular historical moment through the “lens” of fashion, has gathered rare and important examples that express just how important and influential the “Russian style” was throughout the world.
Another great contribution to the exhibition is provided by Toni Candeloro with works he has collected over his brilliant career as a dancer and choreographer, the largest Italian collection on the Art of Dance, conserved by the Fondazione Michel Fokine chaired by costume historian Federica Tornese.