© ADAGP, Paris 2011 © cliché RMN Gérard Blot
Study for a costume, “La Création du monde” ballet,
Gouache and pencil on paper
31.5 x 24 cm
Purchased in 1995
Musée national Fernand Léger, Inv. MNFL 95004
Léger designed the costumes, set design and stage curtain for a new commission from the Ballets suédois (Paris-based Swedish dance ensemble) based on Blaise Cendrars’ booklet La Création du monde, which was inspired by an African cosmogony. He immersed himself in African art to paint scenery in the local colours – black, brown and white – made up of mobile panels depicting three giant deities. He intended for the dancers to disappear under their animal costumes, displaying an unprecedented wealth of movements. The human face should either be hidden behind a mask or frozen by makeup to make it neutral. The monkey costume was particularly designed in line with the animal’s features and Jan Börlin’s choreography which introduced such novel moves as walking on four legs. The ballet premiered on 25th October 1923 at the Champs-Elysées Theatre in Paris.
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