The Sleeping Beauty: The Prince Out Hunting Sees the Castle Where the Princess Lies Sleeping

On display in:

Bakst Room

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Artist or maker

Bakst, Léon (b.1866, d.1924)

Date

1913-1922

commissioned in 1913, completed in 1922

Place of production

  • France

Medium

  • oil on canvas

Type of object

  • paintings

Accession number

89.1995.6

Rectangular painting, portrait orientation, depicting episode six from the Sleeping Beauty series. A hundred years have passed and a young Prince sees the Castle where the Princess lies sleeping.

In the left mid-ground on a grassy promontory, the Prince stands on the shoulders of four men, looking into the distance with his back turned. The Prince wears a tall black hat with a feather, a loose black tunic over a striped shirt and tights. The men have hats, some with feathers, tunics and tights. One carries a cross-bow. The prince looks towards the castle in the right distance, covered on foliage. In front of the group of men are tangled tree roots with three hunting dogs beneath. Seven men appear in the valley below, including before a river on the left. A horse grazes on the left. Two storks soar in the sky at upper left. Foliage hangs down on each side.

Commentary

Seven panels tell the story of Sleeping Beauty. The arrival of Prince Charming is the sixth of the series. The artist, Bakst, was born in Russia and began his career as a painter and illustrator. He achieved his greatest success in the theatre, notably with his designs for the Ballets Russes, which he helped to found.

In the preceding panel, the Good Fairy put the castle to sleep for a hundred years. Here, the Prince spies the palace covered with vines whilst out hunting. His horse on the left bows in the direction of the Princess. The Prince and his courtiers wear costumes similar to those used in Bakst's production of 'Swan Lake' and the castle is very much like that in a stage set design for the 1921 production of 'Sleeping Beauty', designed by Bakst (Opéra Museum Paris).

In 1890, Bakst had seen the dress rehearsal of Tchaikovsky’s first production of the ballet 'Sleeping Beauty' in Saint Petersburg. He said that this experience determined his career, but it was not until 1913 that he had the chance to explore the subject in a sustained way. Bakst’s paintings of the fairy tale were commissioned in 1913 by the newly married James de Rothschild to decorate the drawing room of his London house, which overlooked Hyde Park. The choice of subject was left to the artist, who completed the seven panels in 1922, delayed by ill health, other work and the First World War. In 1923 it was decided to hang the panels in the dining room, but it is not known whether they were ever installed. They were finally hung in the dining room of James's and Dorothy's next house, at 23 St James's Place. They were installed in the Bakst Room at Waddesdon in 1995.

Bakst had not undertaken such monumental painting on this scale before, although he had previously designed several murals. He looked to Italian Renaissance examples, such as Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431-1506), for inspiration. Unlike the other panels, no portraits appear in this work. Instead, this panel draws on Bakst's theatrical designs.

Juliet Carey and Phillippa Plock, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm) / weight (mg)

2500 approx x 1400 - sight

Signature & date

signed, lower left: BAKST

History

Provenance

  • Commissioned by James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957) for 34 Park Street, London in 1913; installed at 23 St James's Place after 1930; bequeathed by James upon trust for his wife Dorothy de Rothschild (b.1895, d.1988) and on her death to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; purchased by a Rothschild Family Trust in 1990.

Exhibition history

  • 'Léon Bakst: The Sleeping Beauty', Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel, 9 November 1992 - 9 January 1993, no. 6

Collection

  • Rothschild Foundation, Waddesdon
  • On loan since 1995
Bibliography

Bibliography

  • Alexander Woollcott, Second Thoughts on First Nights, New York Times, 13 February 1921; p. 89; Bakst's refutation of being blind with description of paintings.
  • Leon Bakst, New York Times, 29 November 1922; p. 16; report on Bakst's visit to USA with description of paintings.
  • Bakst: An Exhibition at The Fine Art Society Limited; 3 December 1973 - 4 January 1974; London; Fine Art Society; 1973; nos 70-71; Study for the Baptism and Princess at the Spinning Wheel.
  • Charles Spencer; Léon Bakst; London; Academy Editions; 1973; pp. 189, 212, 240, fig. 222; as 'The Arrival of Prince Charming'.
  • Haviva Peled-Carmeli, Doron J Lurie; Léon Bakst: The Sleeping Beauty; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 9 November 1992 - 9 January 1993; Tel Aviv; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; 1992; p. 60, fig. 6; p. 107, fig. 104; pp. 114, 116-120; p. 133; cat. no. 6.
  • Diana Souhami; Bakst: The Rothschild Panels of the Sleeping Beauty; London; Philip Wilson Publishers; 1992; pp. 68-69, 102-107, ill.
  • Yelena Bespalova, Bakst's Panels for the Rothschilds in Waddesdon, Russian Fine Art Magazine, 2006, 29-39; p. 34, ill.
  • Charles Spencer; Léon Bakst and the Ballets Russes; London; Academy Group; 1995; pp. 192-203, 223, fig. 302; as 'The Arrival of Prince Charming'.