The Does

Les Biches

This canvas is a model for the backdrop curtain of the operetta Les Biches [The Does], which Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929), director of the Ballets Russes, commissioned from Marie Laurencin in 1923. Marie had been recommended to him by the composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), author of the music, and was chosen to design the costumes and sets for the piece. Les Biches was more precisely a "ballet in one act with songs" based on a libretto by the poet Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), and choreographed by the sister of the dancer Nijinsky. The work was created on 6 January 1924 at the Monte Carlo Opera House along with two other ballets. It proved to be a great success and was eagerly awaited in Paris, where it was performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées as part of the Eighth Olympic Games.
The star-shaped composition revolves around the central woman-doe or woman-siren, around whom the other elements gravitate: a woman, animals, and a cordless guitar. Marie Laurencin created a preparatory drawing and watercolour for this canvas. She produced the painting in the summer of 1923, first in the South of France then in Paris. The curtain itself was painted by a Russian prince. Marie treated her participation in Les Biches as an artistic manifesto. She was particularly fond of this canvas, which she hung in her living room for a while.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume?; Domenica Walter