Dance of the seven veils. Ida Rubinstein

The image of Ida Rubinstein frozen in an expressive dance motion probably captures the finale of her dance, when she is covered only by the last, seventh veil, so transparent that almost all of her body is revealed. The statue depicts a woman with raised arms – one is bent at a right angle and poised behind her head, another, with an open palm parallel to the ground, is lifted up. The artist masterfully conveys the impression that Ida Rubinstein’s dancing produced on her contemporaries – her elegant moves with a tinge of angularity, the fragility, and the wrenching heartbreak of the “voluptuously petrified grace”. The combination of perpendicular compositional axes and rigid rhythmic lines with the subtlest treatment of forms and a most refined ornamentality of details creates the dainty plasticity of a “cat woman” who knows the worth of all things beautiful and of herself. Lean, tall, with long legs and arms, Ida Rubinstein knew how to choose a precise and pithy gesture for expressing rich, intense emotions full of erotic undercurrents. The china-like whiteness of her body is effectively highlighted by the luxurious mop of her dark curly hair, the cool shine of the decorations, and the silvery iridescence of the folds of transparent cloth. A distillation of the yearnings of the fin de siècle, Ida’s image is languishing, voluptuous and, at the same time, aloof and mystical. As Alexander Benois wrote, “she has something enigmatic about her, to the point of chilliness, to the point of fever – and there is also something spicy, overly refined, overly decadent.”


Brief annotations to the image

RUBINSTEIN, IDA LVOVNA (1883-1960) was a Russian dancer and actress, who debuted in the Dance of the Seven Veils in a production of Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé”: casting aside one by one all seven veils, at the end she remained almost completely naked. Afterwards, she won acclaim as a soloist at the “Ballets Russes” in Paris and created her own ballet company.