:: The articles in this series were originally
:: published in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


The Boeuf chronicles

Au Temps du Boeuf sur le Toit
1. Dufy’s stage designs for Le Boeuf.

Daniella Thompson

5 August 2003

The red-haired woman executes the “Danse de Salome” by the policeman’s head (Darius Milhaud archive)

Reminiscing about the staging of Le Boeuf sur le Toit in 1920 (see the composer’s complete texts on the subject), Milhaud wrote:

Jean [Cocteau] had engaged the clowns from the Cirque Médrano and the Fratellini to play the various parts. [...] In contrast with the lively tempo of the music, Jean made all the movements slow, as in a slow-motion film. This conferred an unreal, almost dream-like atmosphere on the show. The huge masks lent peculiar distinction to all the gestures, and made the movement of hands and feet pass unperceived. Guy Pierre Fauconnet designed them, as well as the costumes. We got together one Sunday at my place to arrange the entrances and dances in accordance with my score, as well for Fauconnet to draw the characters as Jean described them to him. We worked so late that I offered to put Fauconnet up for the night, but he refused and preferred to go home to Montparnasse, after arranging another rendezvous with us. He did not turn up. Anxiously, Jean rushed to his house and learnt that the poor fellow had died [...]

Raoul Dufy agreed to take over the work on the scenery for Le Boeuf, keeping our friend’s masks and designs for the costumes. [...]

Cocteau’s scenario included a cast of eight characters, six of whom are portrayed below (images from the Darius Milhaud archive). Missing are the jockey (aka bookmaker) and the policeman.

Le barman

La dame rousse

Le boxeur négre
La dame décolletée

Négre qui joue en billard

Le monsieur en habit

A photograph depicting the dance of la dame rousse and la dame décolletée (played by François and Albert Fratellini, respectively) was published in January 1923 as part of Milhaud’s interview in Musical America.

The lithograph below (original in color) used to hang on the wall of the bar-restaurat Le Boeuf sur le Toit in the 1920s. This image was Planche n° 1 in the Album de la Vogue Musicale, published by Edouard Dupont. A colorized version may be seen in Part 10 of the Boeuf chronicles.

Lithograph by Dufy (Bertin collection)

Note: The photographs on this page were part of the exhibition Au Temps du “Boeuf sur le Toit” 1918–1928, on view between May and July 1981 at the Centre d’Art Plastique Contemporain Artcurial, 9 avenue Matignon, Paris, and printed in the exhibition catalog, from which they were scanned.



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