Margot Fonteyn’s ballet costumes are auctioning
The two costumes – estimated at a combined £10,000 – recall Fonteyn’s fascinating life of dance, romance and South American coups d’etat
Two costumes worn by the great ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn are auctioning at PFC Auctions. Bidding on the two items, each estimated at £5,000, is now open and ends on May 7.
Swan Lake bodice
Designed by Carl Toms. Pale soft net, decorated with costume jewellery. Handwritten label reads, “FONTEYN Prologue”
A beautifully crafted bodice worn by the ballerina in her unforgettable 1963 performance of Swan Lake reminds us of one of the finest ballet renditions in history.
Romeo and Juliet skirt
Designed by Nicholas Georgiadis. White silk organza decorated with fine gold thread and decoration.
The fine and delicate skirt worn by Fonteyn in 1965’s Romeo and Juliet recalls her stunning partnership with Rudolf Nureyev, in what is regarded as the greatest ballet duo of all-time.
Nureyev and Fonteyn are rumoured to have been lovers off-stage. The electricity between the pair kept audiences enraptured, despite Fonteyn being 20 years older than Nureyev. She had been performing Swan Lake since 1938, the year he was born.
“When she left the stage in her great white tutu, I would have followed her to the end of the world,” Rudolf Nureyev.
Both costumes originate from the personal collection of Hetty Baynes-Russell – former ballet dancer, actress and wife of the late British film director Ken Russell.
“Margot Fonteyn was the stuff of legend, both in her ballet career and personal life. These rare costumes are a fantastic reminder of her career,” comments Paul Fraser, founder of PFC Auctions.
“Ballet is back in the spotlight, thanks to the cinema screenings of the Royal Opera House’s performances and the BBC’s recent showing of Fonteyn’s Sleeping Beauty, so we’ve already had strong interest in these wonderful costumes.”
Previous auction results
At Christie’s auction of Margot Fonteyn’s personal collection in 2000, a bodice she wore in Swan Lake sold for £64,250 ($93,548), beating its £3,000-5,000 estimate by 1,185% as collectors bought every lot of her rarely seen memorabilia.
Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE (18 May 1919 – 21 February 1991) was the greatest ballerina of her generation – or perhaps any generation.
Born in Surrey, England and trained from an early age in China, Fonteyn spent her entire professional career with The Royal Ballet based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London.
She made her name performing principal roles in notable productions such as Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and The Sleeping Beauty, before becoming an international star in 1949 during a tour of the United States. She brought ballet to the masses, achieving a level of fame and acclaim unlike any performer before her.
Fonteyn was regarded as the perfect physical shape and size for ballet. Described as an “intensely musical dancer”, she combined a flawless line with a superlative acting ability – often enthralling the audience with a single glance or expression as much as a graceful pirouette.
In 1961, at the age of 42, many expected Fonteyn to retire. Instead she embarked on the most remarkable period of her career, forming a legendary partnership with the young dancer Rudolf Nureyev.
Nureyev had recently defected from the Soviet Union, and was just 24 years old when the pair performed together for the first time.
Thus began a famous on-and-off stage relationship which would last the rest of their lives. Rumours of a secret affair were rife.
Upon Fonteyn’s retirement in 1979, Queen Elizabeth II appointed her “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” of The Royal Ballet for her services – making her one of just 12 women in history to have received the title.
Fonteyn spent much of her later life in Panama, marrying diplomat Dr Roberto Arias and becoming embroiled in a coup d’etat in 1959 that saw her deported to the UK for gun smuggling.
She died on February 21, 1991 in Panama City, aged 71.
She is remembered today as one of the most famous performers of the 20th century, an international star whose passion and grace captivated audiences for generations. For many, she remains the dancer against whom all others are measured.