Leon Bakst Prop Design

I’m in an airport writing this post, so trying to do these notes on props is difficult. If I’m having issues with beginning, then maybe I should just begin with “if”.

If I’m going to do a 3-post series, then I need to have better photos. I wasn’t taking advantage of shooting on a dSLR. Note to self when shooting in low low light: lower ISO, longer shutter speed, RAW format. The camera is a prop. I need to be kinder to my props.

If an object is in a production, what distinguishes it between a “set piece” or a “prop”?

If someone uses the daybed, it’s a prop. If it’s just hanging out in the background and no one touches it, the daybed is part of the set. According to the placard, this daybed was a “prop” for Cleopatra. Ida Rubinstein used it during rehearsals. Rehearsal prop.

If you need to create a world, you need to populate it with people, places, and things. Take a note from Bakst’s attention to detail. Design down to the textiles. Go to the museum, look at the collections, study them. A pattern isn’t just a pattern, it’s a piece of the world.

If that imaginary world needs a loom, include dimensions. Someone in the real world will have to build it.


If an old woman is holding a cane in a drawing, that object is a prop. There is a relationship between this ballet patron and the cane that she holds.

If a lady holds a parasol, does that make her fashionable? If you show her using the parasol, then it is a prop. Bakst drew inspiration from the people who attended the ballet. But why draw them holding objects? Is it a way of showing them interacting with their worlds?

If the things in my life populate my background, and I don’t actually touch them/use them, are they just set dressing? I’m a borderline horder, but I’m trying to be more mindful of my belongings. The objects in my background are feeling less and less important as I get older.