Thursday, April 23, 2015


In this exhibition are told the oriental suggestions that influenced Henri Matisse. I want to focus mainly on the costumes that he created for the theater.
In summer 1919 Sergej Diaghilev and Igor Stravinskij invited Matisse to devise sets and costumes for Le chant du rossignol, one of the new production for the Ballets Russes.
Le Chant du rossignol, which would become the orchestral score for the ballet staged for the first time in 1920 with choreography by Léonide Massine.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale The Nightingale , the ballet tells the story of an Emperor of China who prefers the cold warbling of a mechanical bird to the sweet song of a nightingale. But at the bedside of the seriously ailing Emperor it is the living nightingale that staves off Death with its melody, reviving the sovereign to the joyful surprise of the whole court.
So for Matisse the occasion was an opportunity to share with other visionary natures his aesthetic research and the experience of a total fusion of the arts:dance, music, theatre and painting as elements of an unrepeatable vision orchestrated around a single principle. A harmonious composition of colours, forms and lines in which to transpose, extending them, the fundamentals of his artistic research:decorativism, his intense fascination with East and his passion for fabrics, so evident in his painting.
The colours for the sets were limited to a few, decisive shades, from turquoise to black to white, while for the costumesMatisse risked radiant accords of white and black, pink and gold, oranges and reds in a sparkling of signs, like broad brushstrokes.The stage set was like a picture with colours in movement. These colours are the costumes themselves.
The decoration was orchestrated in perfect balance between two distinct formal solutions:abstract simplicity of lines- architectonic structure of the set, the clothing of the mournes, curtains, diffused floral motifs- and ornamental orientalising richness- costumes of emperor, warriors, accessories and many iconographic elements.
Matisse's personal interpretation of oriental art seemed too refined and abstract in comparison with the magnificent excess of traditional interpretations of a marvellous Orient.

Oriental inspirations


Final scene of "Le chant du rossignol"

Henri Matisse and Léonid Massine

Roma - Scuderie del Quirinale - until June 21

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