Monday, July 30, 2012

The Fairy Ballet Carnival

And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like bishops, lawyers, peers, or spies.
Last came Anarchy; he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.
PB Shelley - The Masque of Anarchy, 1832

"The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in 16th and early 17th century Europe [..and..] involved music and dancing, singing and acting, within an elaborate stage design, in which the architectural framing and costumes might be designed by a renowned architect, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron." [source]


"The designs [..below..] are from the workshop of Daniel Rabel (1578-1637), the artist responsible for creating costumes for the spectacular entertainments performed by and for the French court. The ballets were based on the social dances of the day, but this was social dance elevated to an elaborate art form which combined choreography with poetry, music, song and pageanty, and included elements of satire and burlesque.

The ballets were enormously popular. Most were given at least three performances and all required a great amount of work from their creators and performers[..] Some professional dancers, actors and singers took part but the majority of the participants were members of the nobility. Many of these aristocratic amateurs were skilled performers, including the King, who adored dancing and devised some of the ballets himself." [source]


The sketches in this post (slightly cropped and lightly background spot-cleaned) are from a suite of about ninety illustrations in a 1620s album by Daniel Rabel, encompassing three ballets: Ballet des Fées de la forêt de Saint GermainBallet de la Douairière de Billebahaut and Ballet du Chasteau de Bicêtre.


humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des hiboux et des corneilles
Enter owls and crows

Ballet du Chasteau de Bicêtre

(technique/materials - this applies to all drawings below) watercolour, brown ink & pen, silver & gold highlights
(keywords) carnival, stage costume, fancy dress, dance




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Jacqueline l'Entendue et un hibou
Jacqueline l'Entendue (character) and an owl

Ballet des Fées de la forêt de Saint Germain

carnival, dance, fancy dress, bird




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée du Roi à Atabalipa
Enter King Atabalipa
(last emperor of the Incan empire [W])

Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut

carnival, sedan chair, stage costume, dance, fancy dress




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Alizon la Hargneuse et son dragon
Alizon the Surly and his dragon

Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut

carnival, stage costume, dance, fancy dress, winged dragon





humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des Coupe-têtes
Entry of the Head-Cutters

Ballet des Fées des Forêts de Saint Germain

carnival, dance, decapitation, fancy dress, sword





humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des Androgynes
Entry of the Androgynes

Ballet des Fées des Forêts de Saint Germain

ballet, carnival, dance, fancy dress, [androgyny]




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée de la Douairière et de ses dames
Entry of the Dowager* and her Ladies in Waiting*

Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut

caricature, carnival, stage costume, dance, fancy dress, old age





humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des Médecins courant la Guinteine
Entry of the Doctors running the ?**

Ballet des Fées des Forêts de Saint Germain

armour, carnival, knight, equestrian battle, stage costume, dance, fancy dress, tournament

**ADDIT: La guinteine is the French archaic term for a quintain. A quintain is a jousting dummy training device, hinge-mounted on a wooden pole, and either filled with sandbags, made of a target shield, or, sometimes, holding a human target/training partner. Knights would strike the quintain with their lance and the assembly would rotate away from the horse and rider as they proceeded through. Over time, the practise evolved into something of a game, including bursting containers of water and the tilting at rings. See: here & here. The Joust of the Quintain Festival has been held each year since 1946 in Perugia, Italy. I note that the Carolina Renaissance Fair, over ~6 weekends starting in October, boasts "A Joust to the Death" as part of their program. Charming. [Thanks to Will C & Owen!]





humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée du Grand Can et de ses suivants
Entry of the Great Can (?)** and his followers

Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut

ballet, camel, stage costume, dance

I think Will C is right when he kindly wrote to suggest that Can is most likely a variant of Khan, "perhaps in this case meaning the ruler of Persia, since the character on the camel is wearing a radiance costume, associated in a kind of garbled way with the (non-Muslim) sun imagery of Ahura Mazda."




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Bagage des Grenadins
{Granada*}

Note: Jean Rochefort (famous French actor, horse enthusiast and co-author of 'Le Louvre à Cheval' {2011}1; 2) sees something of a chimera in this image, which he refers to as a givaldros: a subtle crossing of giraffe, horse and camel.

Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut

ballet, horse (animal), stage costume, costume, dance, saddle




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Musique de l'Amérique

Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut
"The history of court ballet can be understood as a series of movements toward and against the literary element. After a period (1590-1605) where dancing prevails, the following periods (1610-1620, 1620-1636) saw the development processing romantic themes, and burlesque ballet (the Dowager of Billebahaut, 1626)." [source | outline]
carnival, dance, fancy dress, percussion instrument, wind instrument, llama (animal)




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des laquais et des singes
Entry of lackeys and monkeys

Ballet des Fées des Forêts de Saint Germain (Ballet of the Saint Germain Fairy Forest) is a five act ballet, including 26 stage entries. It was danced by Louis XIII and his entourage at the Louvre in February, 1625. It was illustrated by ~30 drawings (by Daniel Rabel) of mythological, allegorical, exotic and grotesque costumes.

ballet, stage costume, dance, monkey




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Grand Ballet (with 16 male performers)

Ballet des Fées de la forêt de Saint Germain

carnival, stage costume, dance, fancy dress




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des Lutins
Entry of the Elves

Ballet du Chasteau de Bicêtre
See: 'L'aristocratie française et le ballet de cour' 1956 {W}

carnival, castle, dance, fancy dress




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée du héraut et des tambours
Entry of the Herald and drum(mer)s

Ballet Fairy Forest of Saint Germain

carnival, dance, fancy dress, musical instrument



humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des vaillants combattants
Entry of the Brave Fighters

Ballet des Fées des Forêts de Saint Germain

ballet, carnival, dance, fancy dress, warrior




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Musiciens de campagne
Rural Musicians

Ballet Fairy of the Forest of St. Germain

ballet, carnival, horn, stage costume, fancy dress, wind instrument




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des Parrains et de leurs pages
Entry of the Promoters (?) and their Pages

Ballet Fairy of the Forest of St. Germain

carnival, dance, fancy dress, dwarves  little people




humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Musique servant de récit au Grand Ballet
~(?)Music Recital for the Grand Ballet

(specific ballet not named)
dance, fancy dress, stringed instrument



humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Seconde entrée du Grand Seigneur
Second entry of the Great Prince (Lord)

Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut

canopy, ballet, stage costume, oriental costume



humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Perrette la Hazardeuse et un chat
The hazardous Perrette and a cat

Ballet des Fées de la forêt de Saint Germain [10 Dec 2012]

ballet, cat (animal), stage costume, dance


The humorous masquerade costume design grotesqueries, for three 1620s French royal ballets, were sketched by Daniel Rabel and are available (in modest size only) via the website of Réunion des musées nationaux et du Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées. [home search page - put daniel rabel in free text box if the previous link doesn't work or via here]
Translation from here: "The Ballet Fairy forest of Saint-Germain was danced at the Louvre in February 1625, by Louis XIII himself (in the role of a "valiant fighter") and his court.
It was painted by Henri de Savoie, Duke of Nemours, on texts by the poet René Bordier, with instrumental pieces of dance master Jacques de Belleville and stories of Anthony Boesset, Superintendent of music.
Each creature appears in an allegorical act devoted to him: Guillemine-the-hacking, Fairy of Music; Gillette-the-Hazardeuse, fairy Players, Jacqueline Heard the fairy of the Lame Brains; Alizon-the-snapping, fairy Valor Affairs; Macette la Cabrioleuse, fairy Dance.
This ballet is a brilliant comic and a wealth of machinery."

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Shakespeare The Tempest Act IV Scene I


Addit: Zeck wrote to advise the following (I've edited out the image identification numbers which are readily accessible from the links above):
-le premier, le Ballet des fées des forêts de S. Germain, dansé le 9 février 1625
-le second ballet est le Ballet de la Doairière de Billebahaut dansé par Sa Majesté en février 1626 dans la salle du Louvre
-le troisième ballet, le Ballet du chasteau de Bicêtre dansé le 8 mars au Louvre, à l'Arsenal et à l'Hôtel de Ville

5 comments:

Carol said...

Fabulous costumes. Great post.

bowsprite said...

Incroyable et merveilleux!!! so that is what they did. I sometimes wondered what they did all day other than be noble.

performinghumanity said...

Have you any interest in English masque? It's amazing to see these costumes and think through the evolution from the sixteenth century! Would love to talk more if you're up for it.

peacay said...

Thank you!

Well, if you want to share about English masques, you're welcome to do so in comments here and if you have links to similar visual material to the above, so much the better. My and this blog's interests run wide and deep, but I tend to develop the interest as a consequence of discovering the visual enticements, as I think is pretty obvious if you wander around this establishment.

So feel free to contribute in this space as you wish.

Milady Productions said...

I find myself here serendipitously via various web channels and am always delighted. this blog is one of my all time favorite sources for inspiration.
thank you whoever you are!!!!
stephanie morgan rogers, painter

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