Bakst Painting Smashes Auction House Record

3/05/2013     News Stories & Press Release, Impressionist, Modern & Post War Art

A very British round of applause followed the bang of the hammer that sold a rare Léon Bakst oil painting for £440,000 plus commission yesterday at Roseberys auction house in South London.

The painting, “Bathers on the Lido”, depicts two figures, traditionally held to be Vaslav Nijinsky (in the black swimming trunks) and Sergei Diaghilev (the dark haired central figure) who holidayed with Leon Bakst at the Lido in Venice during the summers of 1910-1912.


Diaghilev was the founder of the famous Ballet Russes, Nijinsky the senior male dancer and Bakst the designer of costumes and sets for some of their ground-breaking modern ballets such as “L’après-midi d’un faune.”

The painting was consigned to Roseberys by the executors of a UK private collector’s deceased estate.  It is unsigned and undated so the Roseberys team had to carry out extensive research to authenticate it.  The study paid off because most unusually the piece can be traced from its production all the way through to its arrival at Roseberys.

Vicki Wonfor, the Roseberys paintings expert who catalogued the work said, “Oil paintings  by Bakst are rare; he usually worked in watercolour.  Furthermore, this painting is unusual as it appears to be a ‘sketch’ or preparatory work with unfinished elements.  However, there does not appear to be a completed study anywhere.  Its unfinished nature adds a notable fluidity and sense of movement to the work.”

There was a great deal of interest in the painting from Russian buyers as well as from the USA and Continental Europe.  Bids opened on commission at £35,000 and leapt rapiidly across four telephone lines and the internet to £90,000 whereupon a bidder in the room offered £160,000.  At £200,000 a new buyer, also in the saleroom, entered the fray and, after a tense battle, became the eventual buyer.  The new owner is an international art collector.

Roseberys previous house record was £105,000 set in December 2011 for a rare English Delft, dated blue-dash restoration portrait charger of Charles II.

Property of Madame Barsacq of Paris, an heir of Léon Bakst
Sotheby’s London, Ballet and Theatrical Material 5th June 1975
Private Collector

The Fine Art Society, Léon Bakst Exhibition, 1912, no.40, 41 or 43
The Fine Art Society, Léon Bakst Memorial Exhibition, 1927, no. 80 or 81
The Fine Art Society, Bakst, December 1973- January 1974 No 110, Lent by Madame Barsacq, Paris

Further information
‘Bathers on the Lido’ was created by Bakst alongside three companion pieces, in the years 1910-1912, two of these companion pieces are also known under the same title, one is of a smaller format and the other is of a similar size to the example being offered which has become known as ‘Popular Bathing at Lido’. The third is a full length study of ‘Nijinsky on the beach at the Lido’.

The history of these four pieces are well documented and can be traced back to The Fine Art Society in 1912 where the first English exhibition of the works of Bakst were shown.



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