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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Irina Baronova (handing on the baton), 2007

Jenny Sages

encaustic, oil and pigment on composition board (support: 121.5 cm x 136.0 cm)

Irina Baronova (1919-2008) was one of the three legendary 'baby ballerinas' who created an international dance sensation in the 1930s and 1940s. Her family fled Petrograd for Romania when she was one year old, and she began her dance training in Bucharest. Soon, the family moved to Paris, where she performed as a soloist at the Opéra in 1930 and the Théatre Mogador in 1931. In 1932, when just thirteen years of age, she was engaged by George Balanchine for his Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. She danced with the de Basil Ballets Russes companies until 1939, performing in Australia with the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938-1939 in productions including Le Coq d'Or. From 1941 she appeared in the Americas, working in Hollywood in the 1940s before retiring. Henceforth, she lived in London with her husband, theatrical agent Cecil Tennant, and their children. Urged by Dame Margot Fonteyn, she emerged from retirement to serve on the technical committee of the Royal Academy of Dance and take up teaching. She lived the last eight years of her life near Byron Bay, NSW, where she completed her memoirs, Irina: ballet, life and love (2005).

National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the J Sages Family Trust 2009

Accession number: 2009.24

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Jenny Sages (age 74 in 2007)

Irina Baronova (age 88 in 2007)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Jenny Sages (27 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Making Stories video: 3 minutes
Making Stories video: 3 minutes
Making Stories video: 3 minutes
Making Stories video: 3 minutes

Kate Grenville

'Making Stories'

Portrait story

Australian writer Kate Grenville discusses her career and portrait by Jenny Sages.

Each morning when I wake up I put on my mothers face, 2000
Each morning when I wake up I put on my mothers face, 2000
Each morning when I wake up I put on my mothers face, 2000
Each morning when I wake up I put on my mothers face, 2000

Paths to portraiture

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

The life and art of Australian artist Jenny Sages is on display in the exhibition Paths to Portraiture.

Irina Baronova (handing on the baton), 2007 Jenny Sages
Irina Baronova (handing on the baton), 2007 Jenny Sages
Irina Baronova (handing on the baton), 2007 Jenny Sages
Irina Baronova (handing on the baton), 2007 Jenny Sages

Handing on the baton

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2009

Michael Desmond explores the life of ballerina Irina Baranova through the portrait by Australian artist Jenny Sages.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.