Prima Ballerinas


Jacques-Emile Blanche (1861-1942). Portrait of Ida Rubinstein as Zobeïde in Schéhérazade, undated. Oil on canvas. Howard D. Rothschild collection on Ballets Russes of Serge Diaghilev. Framed storage. MS Thr 414.4 (43). Bequest, 1989.

Portrait by Jacques-Émile Blanche of Ida Rubinstein as Zobeïde in Schéhérazade

Ida Rubinstein (1885–1960) was born in Kharkov to a wealthy Jewish family. When her parents died, she was sent to live with her aunt in St. Petersburg, where she was introduced to the prominent artists of the city. She trained first as an actor, and then engaged Michel Fokine to give her ballet lessons and to provide the choreography for her projected produc­tion of Salomé, in which she was to take the title role. With music by Alexander Glazunov and costumes by Léon Bakst, Salomé was to have been performed in November 1908, but the production was banned and did not take place. This marked the first of Rubinstein’s many col­labor­ations with Bakst, who remained her friend until the artist’s death. Rubinstein made a sensation in her appear­ance with the Ballets Russes in the initial 1909 season as Cleopatra, and again in 1910 in the role of Zobeïde, the Shah’s favorite wife, in the ballet Schéhérazade. Rubinstein did finally perform the role of Salome, as actor and dancer in the Oscar Wilde play, in Paris, in 1912.