Design for a stage set

Circle of:
Berain I, Jean (b.1640, d.1711)
c 1690
pen and black ink, wash, watercolour and graphite on paper
Type of Object:
design drawings
Accession number:
Cat no:


As Dessinateur de la Chambre et du Cabinet du Roi, Jean Berain designed numerous costumes and stage sets for Louis XIV, whose court entertainments included operas, ballets, masques and jousts. From 1680 Berain was also dessinateur de l’opéra. Martin Meade has demonstrated how the difficulties of identifying the subjects of stage designs of the period are exacerbated by the frequent re-use and adaptation of sets accumulated by the Menus Plaisirs and Académie Royale de Musique (Meade, 2006, I, p. 63). This design for an opera or tragédie-ballet may be for the scene in Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Psyché in which Eros pleads for Zeus’s consent to rescue his beloved Psyche from Hades, or it might depict Pluto’s palace and allude to the redeeming power of love explored in Lully’s Atys or Proserpine.

The god of Love addresses an assembly of gods in a palace setting. He is seated beneath a baldacchino and the weapons of war lie discarded at his feet. The brightest colour is confined to the downstage area where the graceful figures sit and gesture towards one another from cloud or colonnade. The contorted and introverted figures of the damned are chained to rockwork piers in the cavern behind.

Juliet Carey, "Theatres of Life", exh. cat., 2007

Brief Description

Design study for a stage set with clouds over colonnaded wings, baldacchinoed loggia and backstage grotto. Cupid or Eros is depicted centrally, addressing an assembly of gods.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
257 x 405
Signature & Date:
Not signed or dated.
Un fon de men eleve de 8 pieds de hauteur / Une perron en fontaine / ferme de Orlagey
Inscribed, verso, in black chalk, apparently in Berain’s hand.


Exhibition History:
Theatres of Life: Drawings from the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor. Wallace Collection, London 8 November 2007 - 27 January 2008; Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham 12 April - 1 June 2008.
Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust)

Indexed terms