NotesThe date of production for this particular powder compact is unknown but it probably dates from around 1935 - 1955, though the design is much earlier.
Package designed by Leon Bakst (1866-1924) for Coty, Paris, 1914-1924.
Manufactured from 1914 until the early years of the 21st century.
The founder, Francois Coty believed the aesthetics of the packaging to be as important as the product. After his successful artistic partnership with designer Rene Lalique, Coty approached Leon Bakst to design the Air Spun powder boxes. Bakst created for Coty a lavish powder box with powder puff design made in Moroccan leather with gold leaf embossing. These boxes were so expensive to manufacture that Coty paid his customers to return them when empty. They were then sent to Japan where the gold leaf would be scraped off and then reused. Bakst's design was later modified into a cheaper cardboard version by Coty's commercial artist Georges Draeger. The design of the packaging created an impression of luxury and prestige, while still being mass produced. These 'luxury' items were made even more accessible to middle and working class women by packaging them in small quantities and creating gift sets and coordinating product lines. Coty Air-Spun powder was very successful, selling in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia. It was so popular in Asia that the 'Rachel' colour was created specifically for Asian skin tones.
Alysha Buss, Curatorial volunteer, February 2011
Draft biography: Leon Bakst (b. Grodno, Belarus, 10 May 1866; d. Paris, 27 Dec 1924)
Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator with Alsyha Buss, February 2011
Russian painter and stage designer. Born into a middle-class Jewish family, Bakst was educated in St Petersburg, attending a gymnasium and then the Academy of Arts at Yelizaveta Zvantseva's private art school in St Petersburg, where his pupils included Marc Chagall.
Bakst realised artistic success in the theatre. In 1909 he collaborated with Diaghilev in the founding of the Ballets Russes, where he acted as artistic director and his stage designs rapidly brought him international fame. His colourful exotic costumes and decors for Diaghilev's Scheherazade (Paris, 1910) caused a sensation wherever the ballet was performed and prompted new fashions in dress and interior decoration. His name became inseparable from that of the Ballets Russes.
Bakst settled in Paris in 1912, having been exiled from St Petersburg where, as a Jew, he was unable to obtain a residence permit. His costumes, though lavish, did not restrict dancers: in the manner of Isadora Duncan's tunics, they freed the torso.
Examples of his designs for Diagilev are in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Bakst executed Plate No 73 of the Journal des Dames et des Modes in 1913 (Powerhouse Museum collection 2003/16/2)
Borisovskaya, N., Lev Bakst, Moscow, 1979
Bowlt, J.E., The Silver Age: Russian Art of the Early 20th Century and the 'World of Art' Group, Newtonville, 1979
Hansen, R.C., Scenic and Costume Design for the Ballets Russes, Ann Arbor, 1985
Pruzhan, I.N., Bakst, Leningrad, 1975
Spencer, C., Leon Bakst, London, 1973
Toledano, Roulhac B. and Coty, Elizabeth Z., 'Francois Coty: Fragrance, Power, Money', Pelican Publishing Company Inc, Gretna, Louisiana, 2009
Turner, Jane, (Ed), The Dictionary of Art, 1996