Marie Taglioni in “La Sylphide”
Coloured lithographpublished 8 September 1845
About the work
This delicately-coloured lithograph of ballet dancer Marie Taglioni shows her decorated with a coronet of flowers and pearls and with small wings protruding from the back of her dress. The pale pink dress has a knee-length, diaphanous skirt.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Marie Taglioni (1804-1884) is widely considered to have been the greatest ballerina of the 19th century. In ‘La Sylphide’, her most famous role, she played a Sylph, or forest fairy. The first version of ‘La Sylphide’ premiered on 12 March 1832 at the Paris Opéra. The choreography was by Italian dancer and choreographer Filippo Taglioni (1777-1871; Marie’s father) and the music by French composer Jean Madeleine Marie Schneitzhöeffer (1785-1852). Filippo designed the work as a showcase for his daughter. The love story ends with the death of the Sylph, as her wings fall from her, while she is held in the arms of her suitor. Taglioni’s performance came to encompass femininity and a symbol of ideal womanhood. The costume she wore in the role - a low-necked, calf-length, bell-shaped diaphanous dress - was also greatly influential, becoming the 'uniform' of subsequent generations of ballet dancers.
About the artist
Alfred Edward Chalon was born in Geneva but moved to England as a child, when his father was made French professor at Sandhurst. He began his studies at the Royal Academy Schools in 1797 and, having become a fashionable portraitist, was elected a Royal Academician in 1816. Chalon was the first to paint Queen Victoria on her accession to the throne. He was later appointed her official Portrait Painter in Water-colours. His brother, John James Chalon (1778-1854), was also a painter and together they established the Society for the Study of Epic and Pastoral Design in 1808, also known as the Bread and Cheese Society, and the Chalon Sketching Society. Chalon died in Kensington in 1860 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery.