This lady has been Tumblring around the internet lately, and she’d crossed my path a couple of times before Riding Aside asked the obvious question: who is she?
And Marie answered in the comments. Selika Lazevski. She provided a link to a French government website which gave two images of Selika and stated that she’s an écuyère – might this mean that she’s one of the women I’ve blogged about previously who rode high-school dressage in French circuses in the nineteenth century (I was inspired by Hilda Nelson’s recent book)? Selika isn’t mentioned in this Xenophon Press title. Time to Google.
Very few hits other than the photoshoot (by Nadar in 1891). She’s not in Baron de Vaux’s history of horsemen and women in the circus. And that’s it… further investigation is required. I think I know where to look, although I’d have to be in the right library.
Sélika is the name of the heroine of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s 1865 opera, L’Africaine, and was adopted as a stage name by the first black woman to sing at the White House, the coloratura soprano Madame Marie Selika Williams. According to this site, the opera was hugely popular among African Americans, and Selika became a fashionable name. Popular among horse owners too: a filly called Selika won the Kentucky Oaks in 1894.
UPDATE: hello all Selika seekers! Earlier this year I used a couple of spare hours in the British Library to search old newspaper/magazine texts and indexes of circus performers, but sadly there was no sign of Selika, so my circus écuyère theory may have been a wee bit optimistic and I should be looking at artists’ models instead. I’ll keep on hunting when I have time and resources.