Pavlova’s Italian escape, captured by the camera of Gianni

Among the many full-page photographs in the new book, Anna Pavlova, Twentieth Century Ballerina, three in particular caught my eye.

Each was signed G Moreschi, and each was taken in 1925 in the northern Italy town of Salsomaggiore.

The photos depict Pavlova as relaxed and smiling, far from the intense international touring she demanded of herself and no doubt demanded of her by Victor Dandre, her de facto husband.

In the book, the photos are shown as copyright to V&A Images as part of the Cyril W. Beaumont Collection held in the Theatre & Performance Department of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The V&A, however, told me that the photographs could be the copyright of the Moreschi family of photographers in Italy.

I went in search of Alfredo Moreschi who now manages the studio in Sanremo, Italy, asking him to tell me the story behind the photographs.

Alfredo explained that in June 1925, Pavlova asked his father, Gianni Moreschi, to take a series of photographs during the course of a month that the dancer spent in the spa town of Salsomaggiore. She was on holiday from her dancing life but still working on her passion, sculpture.

That summer in Italy, she worked on a statuette of a dancer.

Alfredo wrote: “The locations were the Berzieri hotel in Salsomaggiore (inside photos, portraits and body parts for the statuette) and the Vigoleno old castle near the town”.

Pavlova was photographed in various poses, both formal and informal and is pictured in some of Alfredo’s photographs with her friend, Alexander Jacovleff, the Russian artist, with Giulio Gatti-Casazza, the conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, and Frances Alda, the wife of Gatti-Casazza, and an acclaimed soprano who often sang with Enrico Caruso.

In 1926, a year after the holiday photos were taken, Pavlova toured Australia and New Zealand and coincidentally, in the following year Frances Alda also toured Australia and her homeland, New Zealand.

(Giulio and Frances separated in 1928 and after their divorce he married the Italian dancer, Rosina Galli).

Where, I wondered, was Dandre during this holiday in the summer of 1925?

In his book Pavlova in Art and Life, published in 1932, he wrote that Pavlova had “a quite extraordinary gift for drawing, and even more for modelling. Whenever she had leisure, she would take to pencil and paints.

“This generally happened in Salzo-Maggiore in Italy, which she visited every year for treatment”.

(His spelling is an anglicised version of Salsomaggiore).

“I would go off early for a walk and bring back with me a large bunch of flowers which she liked to draw better than anything”.

There’s no sign of Dandre, however, in Alfredo’s series of photos though in 1926 he accompanied Pavlova on her first tour of Australia.

The book on Pavlova, written by Jane Pritchard with Caroline Hamilton and published Booth-Clibborn Editions in 2012, focuses on Pavlova’s life in England. Pavlova’s visits to Australia and New Zealand get a mention but the wrong date, 1927, is given for her first tour to those countries. Oddly, for a book on such an important dancer, there is no index.

The Moreschi Studio still owns the copyright to the images and gave me permission to use the photographs (on the left), for which I’m very grateful.