Ballet designs draw big money

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Leon Bakst's costume design for the title role in the ballet of The Firebird, an extravagant concoction which created the effect of the dancer's head emerging from a bird's body, goes up for sale on Thursday. But only wealthy collectors and balletomanes need apply: it is estimated at up to pounds 35,000.

The magical green, red and gold design was created by Diaghilev's favourite costume designer in 1910 for the ballet based on a Russian fairy story and set to music by Stravinsky.

Cyril Beaumont, a ballet historian, who saw it performed in London with Karsavina in the principal role, wrote: "The costume which Bakst designed for Karsavina was a charming conception ... She wore a greenish bodice, the top edge trimmed with feathers, the lower ending in a mass of swansdown fitting close to the hip ..."

Five other ballet costume designs by Bakst are included in the Russian sale at Sotheby's. Among them are his elaborate Persian costume for the character of Zobeide from Scheherazade, complete with turban, cape and red pantaloons (estimated at up to pounds 30,000) and the Hellenic transparent blue dress and cloak he designed for the character of Echo from Narcisse (up to pounds 22,000).