Muses

Barbette (Vander Clyde) (1898 - 1973)

Born in the United States, Vander Clyde began touring with a circus as a teenager, most notably as a replacement for one of the « World Famous Arial Queens ». When he developed his solo act and settled in Paris, during the 1920s, he chose the name Barbette that evoked both genders and sounded exotic. He rapidly captivated the avant garde community with his shows at the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère, not only with his trapeze and wire acts but also with his female impersonation, clad in elaborate gowns and feathers: ‘I’d always read a lot of Shakespeare…and thinking that those marvelous heroines of his were played by men and boys made me feel that I could turn my specialty into something unique. I wanted an act that would be a thing of beauty—of course it would have to be a strange beauty’. Barbette’s sensibilities were embraced by Jean Cocteau who described his act as ‘an extraordinary lesson in theatrical professionalism’ and who commissioned Man Ray, in 1926, to take a set of photographs chronicling Vander Clyde’s physical transformation into Barbette, before a performance. The French writer also wrote about the performer in several textes and made him play in The Blood of a Poet, in 1930. His transformation likened by Jean Cocteau to that of Jekyll and Hyde as well as the metamorphoses found in Greek literature, Barbette carved a niche for a queer performing genre by enabling a state in between genders and sexes, a movement that called for tolerance and progressive thought.
 

Tags / Barbette - Muses - It Women - 1920s - Gender - American Performer - Circus
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1961
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1961
Barbette (left center) in Le sang d’un poete directed by Jean Cocteau, 1932
Barbette (left center) in Le sang d’un poete directed by Jean Cocteau, 1932
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Barbette by Studio d’Ora, 1935
Barbette by Studio d’Ora, 1935
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Barbette/ Vander Clyde Ringling Circus aerialist trainer of Webb girls, 1947
Barbette/ Vander Clyde Ringling Circus aerialist trainer of Webb girls, 1947
Barbette in Le sang d’un poete directed by Jean Cocteau, 1932
Barbette in Le sang d’un poete directed by Jean Cocteau, 1932
Man Ray, Barbette Dressing, 1926
Man Ray, Barbette Dressing, 1926
Atelier Madame D'Ora, Barbette, 1926
Atelier Madame D'Ora, Barbette, 1926
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1930s
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1930s
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1932
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1932
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Barbette in Le sang d’un poete directed by Jean Cocteau, 1932
Barbette in Le sang d’un poete directed by Jean Cocteau, 1932
Atelier Madame D'ora, Barbette, 1926
Atelier Madame D'ora, Barbette, 1926
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Man Ray, Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Barbette in Le sang d’un poete directed by Jean Cocteau, 1932
Barbette in Le sang d’un poete directed by Jean Cocteau, 1932
Atelier Madame D'ora, Barbette, 1926
Atelier Madame D'ora, Barbette, 1926
Atelier Madame D'ora, Barbette, 1926
Atelier Madame D'ora, Barbette, 1926
Gaston Paris, Barbette at The Théâtre de l’Empire, 1937
Gaston Paris, Barbette at The Théâtre de l’Empire, 1937
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1961
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1961
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1961
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1961
George Hoyningen-Huene, Barbette, 1930
George Hoyningen-Huene, Barbette, 1930
George Hoyningen-Huene, Barbette, 1932
George Hoyningen-Huene, Barbette, 1932
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Barbette/ Vander Clyde, 1926
Jean Cocteau and Barbette on the set  of Le sang d’un poete, 1932
Jean Cocteau and Barbette on the set of Le sang d’un poete, 1932
Atelier Madame D'Ora, Barbette, 1926
Atelier Madame D'Ora, Barbette, 1926
Charles Gesmar, Barbette, 1926
Charles Gesmar, Barbette, 1926
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