Art-deco elegance at its best

IRIBE, Paul (artist) and Jean COCTEAU

Vaslav Nijinsky

Publication: Société Générale d'Impression, Paris, [1910].

IRIBE, Paul (artist) and Jean COCTEAU, Vaslav Nijinsky

Excellent example of this classic celebration of the star of Diaghilev’s Ballets russes. First edition.

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Our Notes & References

A superbly fresh example of this great book, almost ‘as new’. First edition of Cocteau’s “veritable love letter to Nijinsky” (Williams).

“I no longer know whether he amazes me more by the miracle of his flights or by the intensity of his acting […]. I experience in Nijinsky the unlimited pleasure of art and the precise joy of mathematics. He is constantly proving his genius problem, and his prestige emanates from this balance” wrote Jean Cocteau (1889-1963; our translation), a year after the publication of his tribute to the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950). “Nijinsky fascinated Cocteau most on account of his potent mixture of animality and fragility, at once desirable and androgynous, half-angel and half-leopard. He presented for Cocteau a unique, hybrid spectacle of desire, pain and sacrifice” (Williams).

Cocteau’s poetic verses singing Nijinsky are here broken down into single lines to caption six full-page engravings by Paul Iribe (1883-1935), beautiful for their delicate and elongated, ‘Beardsleyesque’ style. Iribe’s elegant compositions, printed on papier japon, depict Nijinsky in two ballets, Giselle and Shéhérazade, highlighting his ability to dance ‘en pointe’, a rare skill among male dancers at the time: in most of these engravings, the “dancer of exceptional ability and magnetism” (Johnston) barely touches the ground, defying gravity. The album’s extremely sober cover design with art nouveau lettering also allude to the lightness and grace of the subject.

A French designer and fashion illustrator, Iribe came to prominence thanks to his collaboration with couturier Paul Poiret, promoting his controversial new-style relaxed clothing au lieu de tightening corsets; their work was presented in 1908 publication, ‘Les Robes de Paul Poiret racontée par Paul Iribe’, which received Cocteau’s ironic remark that “Iribe’s album disgusts mothers”. Iribe was a member of the famed Ballets Russes’ circle in which he met Nijinsky, the troupe’s most celebrated dancer; in the early 1920s he worked in Hollywood, and had a love affair with Coco Chanel from 1931 to his sudden death four years later.


Acquried from the estate of Jacques Crépineau (1932-2017, a prominent French theatre critic, writer and long-time director of Theatre de la Michodière in Paris).


James Williams, Jean Cocteau, Reaktion Books, 2008, p. 46; Philip T. A. Johnston, “Vaslav Nijinsky”, Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe 1789-1914, 2018.

Item number



Physical Description

Square 4to (31 x 30.1 cm). Blank leaf with limitation to verso, text leaf, and 6 plates by Paul Iribe each with verse by Jean Cocteau.


Publisher’s wrappers printed in red and black, sewn with the original black thick thread.


Very minimal light and marginal spotting on the text leaf and corner of a plate, otherwise immaculate.

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