Pas de Trois: An Artist, An Actor & A Ballerina—Iacovleff, Utaemon and Pavlova
This article analyzes a portrait of the Kabuki actor Nakamura Utaemon V (1865–1940), a specialist in female roles, an onnagata, made by the Russian emigre artist Alexandre Iacovleff in Paris. In the center of the author's interest is a convoluted confluence of the creative energy of Kabuki, the art of portraiture and classical ballet representad by Anna Pavlova. Alexandre Iacovleff was a peripatetic polymath who captivated and who was captivated by everyone and everything he had the good ortune to embrace. He loved the theater and made his life a stage for his escapades––sometimes just for fun, in the manner of commedia dell’arte; other times, darker and daring, outright Grand Guignol. Japan made a profound impression on the man and his art. His portrait of Utaemon V is more than a representation of a charged moment in a Kabuki play. It is an insight into the actor’s ability to communicate puissance and dignity,
and the artist’s reciprocal instinct for how to convey those qualities without frills or fuss.