Ida Rubinstein

Today we celebrate the birth of Ida Rubinstein, actress, dancer and patron of the arts. Rubinstein was born into one of Imperial Russia’s wealthiest families, which gave her the best artistic education that money could buy whilst thwarting her passionate desire to make art herself. Her brother-in-law went to the extraordinary length of having her committed to an insane asylum in order to keep her off the public stage. As a young woman she frequented the febrile artistic circles of Saint Petersburg, befriending Léon Bakst, Michel Fokine and Sergei Diaghilev, soon to form the fabled Ballets Russes. In 1909 Rubinstein starred in Cléopâtre during the company’s debut season in Paris. Though not the most proficient dancer in the company she was among the most beautiful and captivating and her appearance opposite Vaslav Nijinsky in Scheherazade must have been sensationally sensual. Rubinstein left the Ballets Russes in 1911 to form her own company, with Nijinsky’s sister Bronislava Nijinska as choreographer. One of her first productions, the mystery play Le Martyre de saint Sébastien, with text by Gabriele D’Annunzio and music by Claude Debussy, was anathematized by the Bishop of Paris. In 1928 she conceived the ballet Boléro, commissioning from Maurice Ravel the orchestral score that would become his most famous work. For her services to art the government of France rewarded her with honorary citizenship and the Legion of Honour. She retired from the stage on the eve of the Second World War, which she spent in England aiding the forces of the Free French. Ida Rubinstein passed her last years quietly in Vence where she died in 1960, and where her sadly neglected grave can be visited today.

The paintings by Jacques-Émile Blanche and the photographs, possibly by Eugène Druet, show Rubinstein in her most famous role, Zobéide in Scheherazade

One Response to “Ida Rubinstein”

  1. Dylan Thomas Hayden Says:

    La Petite Mélancolie, a blog I frequently visit, has also paid tribute to Ida Rubinstein today.

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