Léon Bakst
Costume for the Chief Eunuch in Schéhérazade 1910, 1930s

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Ballet costumes have a hard life. Unlike today's materials of lycra and other synthetics, the fabrics used in the early decades of this century were difficult to dance in and almost impossible to clean. As the material rotted and tore, it was replaced by new layers. While conserving this costume, parts of the original harem pants were found 'buried' beneath patches and alterations. Now fully restored to their original brilliance, you can even see impressions on the yellow bands where gold medallions were originally sewn. These trousers and the hat may have been worn in the original performance by Enrico Cecchetti, and it is possible that the heart shaped decorations on the overskirt were also from the original costume, saved and appliquéd again on new material.

The jacket, cummerbund and keys are from a later production.