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Costume Designs, Ballet, La Sylphide, American Ballet Theatre, Robert O’Hearn, Watercolors, c. 1971

Robert O’Hearn (1921-2016)
La Sylphide, James
La Sylphide, Effie
American: c. 1964
Watercolor and charcoal on toned paper with fabric swatches
Both titled lower left and signed R. O’Hearn lower right
14.5 x 11.5 inches, each
Price on request

Original costume designs by Robert O’Hearn for American Ballet Theatre: James, the protagonist of the ballet La Sylphide: The Sylph of the Highlands, and Effie, his fiancee. James is dressed in traditional Scottish costume with a red, yellow, and black plaid kilt, a short black jacket over a white collared shirt, and red knee socks. Effie wears a lace-up bodice with puffed sleeves decorated with ribbons, a full skirt and apron. Both designs have fabric swatches affixed upper right. O’Hearn first designed the scenery and the costumes for a 1964 production of  La Sylphide by American Ballet Theatre. His designs were retained for a new production with revised music and staging that premiered in 1971, which was in turn revived by the company in 1983. For the 1964 premiere, the roles of James and Effie were danced by Royes Fernandez and Christine Mayer.

Product description continues below.


La Sylphide is a classic of the Romantic ballet repertoire that originated in the 1830s. The 1836 choreography by August Bournonville is one of the world’s oldest surviving ballets and remains one of his most celebrated works. Set in Scotland, it portrays a love triangle between the central character, a young Scottish farmer named James, his fiancee, Effie, and a seductive supernatural sylph who first appears to him in a dream before he awakens on his wedding day, and then reappears to attempt to lure the conflicted James away and prevent him from following through with the marriage.

Robert O’Hearn was an American set designer, for theater, ballet, and especially, opera. He designed 13 productions for the Metropolitan Opera between 1960 and 1985. Educated at Indiana University, he designed productions for the Brattle Theatre at Harvard University from 1948 to 1952 and began working regularly on Broadway starting in 1953. He also designed productions for the New York City Opera, New York Shakespeare Festival, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, and other American and European productions. From 1988 until 2008 he was a faculty member at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

Condition: Each generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling. Swatches of fabric pinned on paper, as issued.


“La Sylphide.” American Ballet Theatre Repertory Archive.  5 June 2022. (8 June 2022).

“La Sylphide.” American Ballet Theatre Repertory Archive. (8 June 2022).

“La Sylphide.” Wikipedia. (8 June 2022).

“Robert O’Hearn.” Wikipedia. (23 June 2020).

“Scene design for Act II in La Sylphide.” McNay Art Museum. 2022. (8 June 2022).

Additional information


20th Century