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Aleksei Dmitrievich BulgakovLegat caricature, as Rotbart?


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#1 rg

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 11:43 AM

this Legat caricature of Bulgakov is a puzzle.
aruguably most famous role in this dancer's Maryinsky repertory, which he was part of from 1889-1909, was Rotbart in the Petipa/Ivanov SWAN LAKE of '95; Legat's caricature dates according to the NYPL cat. '02-05. there would seem, in major dictionaries in any case, to be no other prominent Bulgakov role during this period that might be identified with the costume in which Legat depicted him.
a photo of the dancer in Demidov's Russian monograph on SWAN LAKE shows a costume related to this one but hardly identical: it has an owl face on the front and a horned, hood of a headpiece and NO slithery tail; it does, however, have wings and taloned footwear.
of course from sketch to execution the details could well have changed but Legat shows the dancer presumably well after '95 as if minus a headpiece and wearing an actual costume, that is, not in 'costume sketch' mode.


here's the NYPL cat. entry for the print:
A. Boulgakoff.
Legat, Nikolai Gustavovich, 1869-1937. Russkii balet v karikatura. [St. Petersburg, 1902-05, no. 12]
Caricature, colored collotype, by Nikolai and Sergei Legat.
Bulgakov, Aleksei Dmitrievich, 1872-1954.

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#2 sandik

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 12:44 PM

I've no idea really what role he's dressed for here, but I do love the way his tail wraps around his ankle!

#3 leonid

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 02:04 PM

this Legat caricature of Bulgakov is a puzzle.
aruguably most famous role in this dancer's Maryinsky repertory, which he was part of from 1889-1909, was Rotbart in the Petipa/Ivanov SWAN LAKE of '95; Legat's caricature dates according to the NYPL cat. '02-05. there would seem, in major dictionaries in any case, to be no other prominent Bulgakov role during this period that might be identified with the costume in which Legat depicted him.
a photo of the dancer in Demidov's Russian monograph on SWAN LAKE shows a costume related to this one but hardly identical: it has an owl face on the front and a horned, hood of a headpiece and NO slithery tail; it does, however, have wings and taloned footwear.
of course from sketch to execution the details could well have changed but Legat shows the dancer presumably well after '95 as if minus a headpiece and wearing an actual costume, that is, not in 'costume sketch' mode.


here's the NYPL cat. entry for the print:
A. Boulgakoff.
Legat, Nikolai Gustavovich, 1869-1937. Russkii balet v karikatura. [St. Petersburg, 1902-05, no. 12]
Caricature, colored collotype, by Nikolai and Sergei Legat.
Bulgakov, Aleksei Dmitrievich, 1872-1954.


Alexei Dmitrievich Bulgakov (b. St. Petersburg 1872 d. Moscow 1954) was a pupil of both Marius Petipa and Pavel Gerdt who gave notable performances at the Maryinsky appearing in the roles of Rothbart (as you mention), Drosselmeyer in Nutcracker, the Don in Don Quixote, Brahmin (La Bayadere), Claude Frollo in Esmeralda etc.

Bulgakov also appeared in Diaghilev’s first Paris season in Scheherazade, Egyptian Nights and later as Kaschei in The Firebird, as the Tsar Dodon in The Golden Cockerell appearing with the company from 1909 – 1914, his last role was in Massine’s Legend of Joseph.

He had become regisseur at the Bolshoi in Moscow from 1913 and appeared there as an artist until 1949 when he retired from performing aged 77.

I believe he taught at the Imperial Theatre School in Petersburg and certainly at the Bolshoi Theatre School from 1926 - 1929.

I have a good number of the Legat cartoons but have not seen the Bulgakov before and I am glad you posted it.

Do you think the Legat’s cartoon is not so much a depiction of a role, but instead, a commentary on Bulgakov being both an angel (and if that is a forked tongue as appears to be ) with a sting in the tail?

#4 rg

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 07:18 PM

as noted i don't quite know what to make of this.
true, Legat depicted Cecchetti as grasshopper? (or some green insect) but my understanding, hardly a carefully researched one, is that he depicted most dancers costumed for roles associated with them, and as noted above, this costume, minus the headpiece, bears some relation to that for Rotbart, but again as noted, not exactly enough.
i guess it's safe to say that the iconography of this 'costume' is not that of an owl, so, i suppose one must eliminate Rotbart.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 12:33 AM

Caricatures often capture the essence of a person's character beyond simply their occupations. I don't know much about relations between Bulgakov and Legat, but I wonder if the latter found the former to be a rather creepy guy, hence the "gargoyle" look.

#6 leonid

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 03:52 AM

as noted i don't quite know what to make of this.
true, Legat depicted Cecchetti as grasshopper? (or some green insect) but my understanding, hardly a carefully researched one, is that he depicted most dancers costumed for roles associated with them, and as noted above, this costume, minus the headpiece, bears some relation to that for Rotbart, but again as noted, not exactly enough.
i guess it's safe to say that the iconography of this 'costume' is not that of an owl, so, i suppose one must eliminate Rotbart.


The Legat's did as you say, in most of their caricatures depict dancers in their roles.

Last year when we were posting about ballets with insects, I wrote, " The Whims of the Butterfly(Les Caprice du Papillon) ballet in one act based on a poem by Yakov Polonsky called The Grasshopper Musician. Choreography Marius Petipa, music Nikolai Krotkov. First performed at a private performance June 5 1889 first public performance at Maryinsky 25 October 1889. I have a Legat caricature of Cecchetti in a Green costume with a violin in the role of the Grasshopper Musician which he danced in a revival of the ballet in 1895."

I have yet to find a a Russian source, but having now checked my files, I find the Bulgakov caricature you posted is rightly described as "Rothbart", which does have an added creepiness, as Mel suggested. I am sure that there is either a photograph or an illustration of Bulgakov in the role but my memory is not so sharp as it once was and I will have to search among my books.

#7 leonid

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 04:01 AM

Caricatures often capture the essence of a person's character beyond simply their occupations. I don't know much about relations between Bulgakov and Legat, but I wonder if the latter found the former to be a rather creepy guy, hence the "gargoyle" look.


You are quite right look at the caricature of Mathilde Kschessinskay adorned with a multiplicity of diamonds. I am not sure she thought they flattered her status although Nikolai was on friendly terms with the Prima Ballerina Assoluta he calling her Maliya and she calling him Kolinka..

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 04:50 AM

You know, I've never seen a picture of Bulgakov in mufti. I wonder if he carried his head rather forward, thus creating the "gargoyle" look, with the demon-type costume as backstory referring to Rotbart, and perhaps other grotesques. Legat's caricatures are very perceptive in all sorts of ways!

#9 rg

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 05:34 AM

as noted above there is a grainy photo of Bulgakov's Rotbart in Demidov's Russian book on SWAN LAKE.
Mel's 'gargoyle' suggestion is the best 'reading' of this look so far, but the connection of Bulgakov to the role of Rotbart is still strong.


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