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Help identifying Fonteyn tutu from late 1950s


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Hello...I am a newbie with a mission! This message will only be of interest to people of an older age group! Somewhere between 1969-1971 a school friend who worked in a costume hire shop in Huddersfield gave me a bag of ballet costumes when the shop was closing down. There were 2 velvet tunics.... one black white and gold (Siegfried I think) one green (less impressive) and three tutus each with Bonn and Mackenzie labels plus three other labels....ballet (sleeping beauty) dancer's name and role. There was a blue one with a grey/blue skirt labelled Aurora and Margot Fonteyn. Another blue tutu with blue lame bodice with jewels sewn on, labelled Antoinette Sibley, Fairy Crystal. The third one is a real mystery as any keen balletomane will know...it's beautiful red and orange flame effect on the bodice and labelled Judith Sinclair Fire Fairy.....?? I have done a year's research on the net to try to get some provenance to sell these three tutus after having them for about 45 years but it's not easy. I have been in touch with V and A and Royal Ballet but they have not been able to identify them although Dame Antoinette has apparently told the RB she recognises them from photos I have sent. As for Fire Fairy?? I am trying to find photos from the 1950s from the RB touring company Beauty because this might help me. Please does anyone have any ideas? Judith Sinclair danced with the RB in the late 1950s but no idea what happened to her...she might be able to shed some light on Fire Fairy. Any discussion gratefully received. Yolanda

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There is a ballet, originally choreographed by Ashton, called Homage to the Queen.  It is in four sections one of which is fire but the original choreography was lost so in a revival we saw a modern version.  Could the original have included 'fire fairies'?  I wasn't watching the Royal Ballet in the '50's, but what I know of the history of the company at the time leads me to believe it may be a possibility.

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I wonder if your tutu could be from the televised production of Sleeping Beauty in 1959? Judith Sinclair danced one of the fairies (and FonTeyn was Aurora and Sibley was also a fairy, which would fit) and as it was a one-off version they could easily have been given different names, like 'Fire'.

 

Have a look at the video - there's a bit from about 4.20 where you see the group of fairies in close-up and you might be able recognise your tutu - harder of course because the film isn't in colour.,

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Hello and thanks for all the welcomes and ideas. I came to the Vision Scene conclusion myself because of the blue/grey and also thought it might be an outside event as it doesnt have a Covent Garden label which it would normally have. I will definitely try to look at the film. Does anyone know how to contact Keith Money...he might know. Have tried the Homage ballet but no Fire Fairy and the label does say Sleeping Beauty....a real puzzle. Can I put photos on here?

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You can post photos but it's a bit of a faff - if you post your photo first on say Twitter then you can copy the photo URL and paste it into the Link icon - there is a Link icon/button on the compose bar 9th one along (next to the numbered bullet point icon).  

 

I would LOVE to see your photos how exciting to own these items!!

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I dont have twitter or rather I do but cant remember how to use it (my son put it on my ipad for Christmas two years ago!). I would love to share the photos I have of my tutus so you can see them...they were in my attic from house to house for 45 or so years until I felt I could research them properly (good old internet but even better this forum - I cant believe Jane S has solved this problem for me with that idea. It doesnt list the Fairies by  name as far as I can see - so no Fairy Crystal etc just Fairy Godmothers - unless there is another cast list somewhere else. But no-one can doubt this is where the costumes come from. I am happy to email the photos to anyone who would like them. Am I allowed to put my email address on here if anyone wants to contact me to see them?

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I do hope somebody wants them!! I cannot believe there isn't some theatre archive or individual who is a collector of anything connected to these artists out there. Maybe even some amateur ballet companies?

I suppose with it being a one off TV production theatres like the Royal Opera House may not be so interested but wishing you lots of luck with selling them and hope they end up in good homes.

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I am guessing that they were not sold in the auction in february as you stated. May we ask roughly what you would ask for them?

 

Are they the ones mentioned here: http://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/bristolauctionrooms/catalogue-id-bristo10003/lot-947cd9cd-6875-4b6d-8803-a5aa00df0669

 

The similarity of the description of this and the other tutus is identical to those you mention.

Edited by SwissBalletFan
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So pleased we've been able to help, Yolanda :)  But are we really saying that they made a whole load of new tutus just for a TV broadcast?!

 

BTW, the one on the left is particularly gorgeous :)

They look like the sort of powderpuff tutus that Karinska made for NYCB when Balanchine wanted a lot of dancers onstage at once and the regular-size tutus would take up too much room. I wonder if they had to make these smaller-scale ones for the TV broadcast because the studio was smaller than the stage and the regular tutus would have been too big when all the fairies were onstage together.

Edited by Melody
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This is an amazing story! Years of research to no avail, then a post on (the admittedly fabulous!) balletcoforum, and an hour later an answer! I think this might have interest as a news story, even a national news story especially with the recent restoration of the recording, after the discovery of the kiss missing reel recently.

 

Did the tutus sell? I hate to say it, but they are worth a lot more now with this great provenance!

 

The forum truly is the font(eyn) of all knowledge :)

Edited by cavycapers
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I was coming round to the conclusion that the changes must have been linked somehow to the fact that the production was televised, but Melody's point about bulk was something I hadn't considered.  And I suspect Margaret is right about needing to make the desired impression/sufficient distinction in black and white - the "flames" in particular ought to have shown up really well (my guess would be that the "Fire Fairy" was "Violente"?).

 

Yolanda, if these tutus were made for a one-off performance, is that reflected in the quality of the making - that they weren't intended for long-term use?

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I entered the two famous named tutus in a recent auction. I didn't include the Fire Fairy for fear of challenging the authenticity of the others. Now we know where the Fire Fairy comes from, they go together as a package which is wonderful. At the auction the hammer went down below my reserve but the auction house were prepared to pay the difference  but 8 days later he refused to pay the auction house as he was not satisfied with the provenance - thank heavens I hadn't spent any money in anticipation. I therefore set to trying to dig deeper into my research so the tutus were returned to me by special delivery yesterday. How very opportune! I do want to sell them. They are looking old and the Fonteyn tutu has lost lots of sequins from the skirt and the Sibley one has rusty marks from the various jewels on the bodice but hey they are almost 60 years old. I would love to think they would go somewhere to be displayed.

Yes it's a fantastic story and if anyone has any means of getting some publicity please feel free!

I am at work at the moment but tonight will be happy to send photos to anyone who wants me to!

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On the subject of their quality, they don't seem to be shoddy in any way - I did think they might be late 1940s because they looked like they were done on a budget - basic compared to today's jewel encrusted bodices and skirts...I doubt that Bonn and Mackenzie cut corners but of course I could be wrong.

 

The men's tunics are a different period from the ones in the film which seem a bit medieval (not sure that is the right term!)

 

I was awake till 3 this morning with Sleeping Beauty music going through my head after having watched the newly found footage over and over again and taken stills from it with my mobile!!

 

I am afraid to get my hopes up too much at the moment...I have contacted an auction house in London but they haven't replied so maybe they won't be interested...we shall see!

 

I shall keep saying thankyou to Jane S for ever even if my tutus never sell - the end of 50 years of mystery for me!

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I am guessing that they were not sold in the auction in february as you stated. May we ask roughly what you would ask for them?

 

Are they the ones mentioned here: http://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/bristolauctionrooms/catalogue-id-bristo10003/lot-947cd9cd-6875-4b6d-8803-a5aa00df0669

 

The similarity of the description of this and the other tutus is identical to those you mention.

yes these are they - the Fire Fairy went on the cover of the auction sale catalogue much to my regret - I had already pulled it from the auction but they liked it for the cover - it did look nice I must admit. I don't know what I would ask for them now...would really need to think!

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Maybe you could speak to Kerry Taylor Auctions in London. Kerry specialises in fashion and is very knowledgeable about that market so would probably be able to point you in the right direction. Alternatively seek out specialist dance/ theatre museums. There's the Dans Museet in Stockholm and the Costume Museum in Bath did have some Nureyev things.

Edited by Don Q Fan
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I think it was immensely lucky that they didn't sell! They will surely fetch so much more now you have this lovely provenance. That man who changed his mind after the auction would be kicking himself now, if he knew, teehee.

 

Let us all know if they do go in another auction, won't you? I have already smashed my piggy bank, and have found only two buttons and a euro, but a girl can dream!

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I had contacted Kerry Taylor auctions already before the new info and had been told I needed more provenance so now I have it! I think in 2019 when it is Fonteyn's centenary will be the right time to sell them......till then they will have to remain in my loft and I will continue to dream!

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Yes, that would be a good time to sell. But I also wonder if the news coverage of the discovery of the missing reel in a vault in 2014, and it's restoration into the film, and then BBC4 showing the whole thing that year, might still be in people's minds. It was shown again just 3 weeks ago. Just a thought!

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