[Ballets Russes] [Bolm, Adolph. (1884–1951)] [Bakst, Léon. (1866–1924)] Hoppé, Emil Otto. (1878–1972)
Adolf Bolm in Thamar (Monsieur Adolph Bolm, Thamar), 1912
Sepia toned gelatin photograph of the important dancer, ca. 1912. Stamped "ADOLPH BOLM / 'THAMAR' / SERGE de DIAGHILEFF'S BALLET RUSSE" on the verso in violet ink. Right edge trimmed irregularly, small loss to upper left corner, light spotting, else in fine condition. 5.2 x 8 inches [13.2 x 20.3 cm]. Framed.
An early associate of Anna Pavlova, Adolphe Bolm later was a major figure in Diaghilev's Ballet Russes. An injury sustained during this US tour lead him to leave the company and remain in the US, where he went on to organize "Ballet Intime" and collaborate with the New York Metropolitan Opera. He is shown in the present image in the 1912 Ballets Russes production of "Thamar," in a costume by Leon Bakst.
In the ballet with music by Balakirev and choreography by Michel Fokine, the subject of the life of Thamar, Queen of Georgia from 1184 to 1213, was transformed in the spirit of nineteenth-century Romanticism, becoming a symbol of nationalist pride in the face of growing Russian cultural dominance in the Caucasus. Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov fictionalized Thamar’s history within his interpretation of a Georgian legend of a malevolent seductress in his 1841 poem, Tamara, and it was this version, along with Balakirev’s symphonic poem Tamara, that inspired Bakst and Fokine for the Ballets Russes production. Bakst’s looming set dramatized Thamar’s isolated court in her castle in the treacherous Terek River and provided a stark background for his sumptuous and richly detailed costumes for the queen, her courtiers, guards and suitors. The men’s costumes are based on the traditional Caucasian cherkeska (Circassian coat) or kaftan with beshmet underdress.
German born photographer E. O. Hoppé moved to London in 1902 at the age of 24 to work for the Deutsche Bank. He was elected member of the Royal Photographic Society in 1903 and became one of the most important portrait and documentary photographers of his time. E. O. Hoppé spent most of his life in England or travelling the rest of the world on assignments. The present photograph was published as a gravure in Hoppé's 1913 Fine Art Society London volume "Studies from the Russian Ballet," the photographer’s first major publication. At a time when ballet was highly popular he photographed most of the leading members of Serge Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet in London and the present image of Bolm is one of his most celebrated images.