Spanish Dancer. Study for a portrait of Carolina Otero - Russian impressionism museum

Spanish Dancer. Study for a portrait of Carolina Otero, 1903

Sergei Vinogradov

Watercolour, pastel and coloured pencil on paper

Carolina Otero (1868–1965) was a French actress, singer and dancer of Spanish origin, a popular photographic model and symbol of the Belle Époque, and a memoirist. She was known as La Belle Otero.

Her artistic gifts notwithstanding, Carolina Otero was internationally famous for her love affairs with members of European royal families and the fact that she appeared on numerous postcards of the period.

She toured to Russia on more than one occasion. In 1893, she performed at Moscow’s Omon theatre and five years later her dancing was filmed in St. Petersburg by Félix Mesguich, an employee of the Lumière Brothers who showed their films to Nicholas II.

In that year, 1898, Mikhail Vrubel painted a portrait of the striking dancer, which is now in the Belarusian National Arts Museum, Minsk. Sergei Vinogradov depicted her in a straw hat, dressed very similarly to La Belle Otero’s costume in Mesguich’s film. He met her in Monte Carlo, where she gambled away her fortune in the casino.

The portrait and its study, which is in Vladimir Spivakov's collection, are an exact pictorial reproduction of the artist's reminiscences: “The music-hall dancer Otero was talented, striking, original, beautifully dressed, slender, very tall, with expressive hands. Her long, shapely legs would move so energetically that it seemed she might travel from the stage into the audience at any moment. She was very resourceful in her use of lighting. . .”