Dame Laura Knight, 1877 - 1970


Dame Laura Knight 1877 - 1970


A depiction of the members of the Ballets Russes on stage before curtain-up. In the right foreground a group of men and women stand together: the men in top hats and striped trousers; the women in peasant type costume with full, brightly-coloured skirts and bonnets. Left of the centre some single figures stand limbering up, a man in harlequin tights standing on one leg, a woman in frilly skirts bending over to touch her toes, two women standing talking behind her. There is a group of men in the background on the extreme left. A dark shadow casts a sharp diagonal line across the background wall to the left. After the First World War, Laura Knight increasingly concentrated on ballet as a subject and took lessons at Tillers Dancing Academy at St Martin's Lane, London, in order to draw there. She obtained permission to work backstage during Diaghilev's third season in London and Lydia Sokolova, the first English dancer to join the Diaghilev company - her real name was Hilda Munnings, allowed her dressing room to be used as a studio. 'Le Carnaval' was a ballet-pantomine in one Act with choreography by Michael Fokine, music by Robert Schumann, set and costumes by Leon Bakst. It was first produced in March 1910 in St Petersburg and given its English premiere by the Diaghilev Ballet at Covent Garden on 21 June 1911. The ballet presents the loves and flirtations of the Commedia dell'Arte characters, Pierrot (who loves too much) and Papillon, mischievous Harlequin and Columbine and their friends, including the pompous Pantalon who represents the absurdity of being old. Members of the Russian ballet are shown on stage at Drury Lane just before a performance of Le Carnaval which was part of the repetoire in their season from 29 September to 20 December 1919 at the Empire Theatre. Among those represented are (left to right): Serge Diaghilev (top-hat), Leonide Massine as Eusebius (red coat), Stanislas Idzikowski (Harlequin), Lydia Sokolova as Papillon (pointing foot), Leon Woizikowski as headstrong Florestan (striped tights), Thadeus Slavinski (in buff coat and top hat), Nicholas Sverev (in organge tailcoat), Enrico Cecchetti as Pantalon (in buff coat and green gloves) and Lubov Tchernicheva as Chiarina (in a blue tiered skirt). These figures in the painting were identified by the artist who also identified the central dancer in the group of men wearing top hats as Thadeus Slavinski. However, Slavinski was not listed in the company for that season. Le Carnaval was also performed by the Diaghilev Ballet at the Coliseum Theatre 5 September - 29 March 1919, the Alhambra Theatre 30 April - 30 Jylu 1919 and the Royal Opera Covent Garden 10 June - 30 July 1920.

Object Name


Creators Name

Dame Laura Knight

Date Created



unframed: 101.6cm x 132.6cm
framed: 133.5cm x 163.2cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


©The Esate of Dame Laura Knight - Artist's copyright fees must be cleared with The Estate of Dame Laura Knight on any kind of reproduction

Fill out my online form.