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Le Ballet Royal de La Nuit

Author:
Gissey, Henri (b.c 1621, d.1673)
Probably Designer:
Benserade, Isaac de (b.c 1613, d.1691)
Date:
1653
Place of production:
Paris, France
Medium:
letterpress and woodcut on paper; ink, watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper; bound in citron morocco
Type of object:
books
Accession number:
3666.1-3
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Stamped with the arms of one of Louis XIV's courtiers, this book contains material from three distinct sources relating to "Le Ballet de la Nuit", first performed at the French court on 23 February 1653. The booklet of the ballet printed by Robert Ballard in 1653 is followed by a set of seven stanzas of verses extra to the ballet, called "Le Docteur Muët" (The Mute Doctor) (see acc. nos 3666.1, 3666.2). The book concludes with 129 original designs depicting costumes and scenes from the ballet (see acc. no. 3666.3 and 3666.3.1-129).

The book was probably produced as a gift for Louis Hesselin (1602-1662) as a reward for the successful staging of the ballet. His position as maître de la chambre aux derniers (Master of the King’s Accounts) included responsibility for the royal entertainments. Several copies of the printed booklet exist and there are other original designs for the costumes and scenery. One manuscript copy of the booklet bound into a volume of designs copied for Denis-Pierre-Jean Papillon de la Ferté (1727-1794), a later administrator of ceremonies, also has a copy of "Le Docteur Muët" (Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France, MS 1004).

In the front of the Waddesdon book, there is a lengthy inscription by a previous owner of the book, Baron Jérome Pichon (1812-1896), a noted bibliophile. In 1887, forty years after he bought the book, he recorded details about its provenance. He speculated that the volume was once owned by the famous furniture-maker André Charles Boulle (1642-1732) and survived a fire in his studio. Pichon believed the illustrations to be by Stefano Della Bella (1610-1664) but it is now thought that they are by Henri Gissey (see acc. no. 3666.3). Pichon also recorded some biographical details about Hesselin, whose arms appear on the book's covers. He was clearly intrigued by the man. In the last two inscriptions, dated January and August 1895, Pichon excitedly records his purchase of Hesselin's carriage clock. He never completed the drawing of the clock, which he also intended for the front of the volume, as he died the following year.

Phillippa Plock, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
345 x 243 x 43
Physical details:
folio, 394 pages
Marks:
[Arms of Louis Hesselin, with his griffin and cross at the corners]
Stamp
[stamped in centre of panel on both covers]

MEMOR
FVI
DIERVM
ANTIQURV
PS
CXLII
Stamp
[inside front cover, gold stamp surrounded by oval frame surmounted with ribbons and festoons]
Inscriptions:
[p. 1:] Les dessins placés par Hesselin dans cette exemplaire du Ballet
De la Nuit sont certainement ceux qu’ont servi de modèles pour l’exécution
des costumes de ce ballet et pour sa mise en scène.
Le volume porte les armes de Louis Cauchon dit Hesselin
Maître de la Chambre aux deniers et surintendant des plaisirs du Roy.
C’était un homme de beaucoup de goût, bibliophile, amateur de
tout ce qui était beau dont Sauval et bien d’autre contemporains
ont célébré le mérite à propos de sa belle maison quai de Bethune
au coin de la rue Poulletier (il ne reste que de l’ornamentation intèrieure)
existante aujourdhui et de celle de Chantemerle pres Essone. C’est
Hesselin qui organisoit les fetes de la cour pendant la minorité de
Louis XIV, et, comme de très grands seigneurs, comme le Roy lui meme
il prévoit personellement part aux ballets de la Cour. C’est ainsi
que dans le présent Ballet de la Nuit Hesselin parut [quatre fois = crossed out] 2 fois comme reprèsentant 1° le Maître de la cour des Miracles, 2°
Jupiter [3° Alcmene (sic) 4° Belfano = crossed out] (1er –pie. - 1he entrée et 2e pie
- -entrées 12, 13 et 14).
Suivant l’habitude de Benserade les vers écrits pour les
personages représentés par Hesselin s’appliquent à l’acteur
et non au personnage. C’est toujours la richesse, la galanterie,
le bon goût d’Hesselin qui en font le sujet.
Félibien nous apprend dans ses vies des peintres de 1688
in 4°. T. II p. 177 qu’Hesselin avait fait faire par Etienne de
La Belle plusieurs dessins et entre autres un Livre entier de ballets
et mascarades qui étoit en 1688 à Versailles avec les
autres livres du Cabinet du Roy. (Ce recueil étoit sans doute
aux arms du Roy) – Il me paroit certain que le présent
volume relié aux armes d’Hesselin et contenant des personages
de ballets dont plusieurs (ceux de la cour des Miracles) sont traités
[p. 3:]
tout à fait dans le gout de Callet et de son élève La Belle a été commandé
par Hesselin à La Belle pour la mise en scène et l’éxécution du Ballet
de la Nuit et réuni ensuite à l’imprimé et relié par les ordres d’Hesselin
organisateur de cette fete et pour lui. D’après les terms de Félibien il
semblerait que le [recueil = crossed out] volume de Versailles contenoit plusieurs ballets
tandis que celui ci n’en contient qu’un.
Est ce le recueil cité par Felibien comme étant à Versailles en
1688, ou un recueil analogue ou est-ce la réunion de plusieurs volumes
du genre de celui-ci qui etoit chez André Charles Boule [sic] le celebre
ébèniste et qui périt dans l’Incendie de son atelier au moins en partie
ainsi que le raconte Mariette dans son abécédario au mot Boulle?
D’après Mariette ce qui fut soustrait de l’Incendie etoit prodigieux
quoique peu de chose en comparison de ce qui périt et ou en fit une
vente publique qui dura longtemps où furent exposés les restes d’une
des plus belles collections qui aient été faites. Si la collection d’habits
de theatre de La Belle etant chez Boulle se composait de plusieurs
volumes ces volumes ressemblaient nécessairement à celui ci et
celui ci meme peut très bien etre un des volumes de cette collection
soustrait à l’incendie.
Ce précieux volume m’a été obligeamment cédé vers 1847
pour 4 ou 500 fr. par le Mis de Coislin de regrettée mémoire
lorsqu’il acheta la Bibliothèque de M. Bourdillon. Ce dernier
etoit un amateur de bon gout mais très maniaque retiré à Chambéry
qu’il appeloit le rognon (pour dire le meilleur endroit) de l’Europe.
très mal avec Motteley qui l’appeloit cet énergumène tronqué (il etoit
petit). La note imprimée collée au dessous de mon ex libris est
découpée dans le catalogue imprimé, mais non publié de M. Bourdillon.
Dans cette note on appelle maroquin citron du maroquin marbré
[p.5:]
et de la moiré du papier à aiguilles #. Molière le Danseur y en joui
pour notre grand auteur comique M Bourdillon a du mourir en
Suisse de 1855 a 60 [pe = crossed out] et Mis. de Coislin aussì.
Sur Louis Cauchan dit Hesselin voir ma note p. 248 du
Voyage de Lister (Evelyn) en remarquant que le passage cité de Felibien
est p. 177 et non 77. J’y ajouterais encore 1° que suivant une note
d’un member de la famille Cauchan au 17e siècle Hesselin mourut le
9 aoust 1662 et non en 1664 comme je l’ai vu dans Guy Patin
et fut enterré dans sa paroisse Ile N. Dame. Cette note se trouva sur
mon ex. Du Psalterium Davidicum de Claude de Vicques relieur
du Roi 1559 in-92. 3° [sic] qu’il y a une assez jolie gravure d’après
Ferdinand représentant une quantité d’amours dediée à Hesselin.
4° qu’on voit Hesselin paraissant non seulement dans le ballet de
la nuit mais encore dans les ballets suivants
Noces de Thètis et Pelée 1654 role de centaure et aussi
de maître de l’academie
B. des proverbs 1654 role d’un bourgeois rossant un fanfaron
B. royal des plaisirs 1655 amoureux donnant une sérénade
B. d’Alcidiane 1658 role d’une femme
Enfin en 1662 dans le ballet d’Hercule amoureux je vois M.
Hesselin fils représentant le zéphir – ce ne peut etre lui et
on le donne toujours comme le dernier de sa branche. B.J.P. 17 aoust 1887

J’ai trouvé dans un singulier petit livre institulé “Tableau des Provinces de
de [sic] France Paris chez Etienne du Castin 1693 [partie?] in 12 (volume de
44 pages qui ne tient pas du tout les promesses de son titre) un passage sur
Hesselin qui est curieux car c’est le seul témoinage contemporain que j’ai trouvé
sur ces machines dont suivant l’expression de Sauval, l’ingénieux Hesselin s’etait
servi. ”La petite rivière (d’Essone) entoure le parc (de Chantemerle, non
de la maison d’Hesselin) et y sert de fossé. Ceux qui environant la maison y sont
remplis d’eau vive et on y voyoir une escarpolette disposé de manière
[p. 7:]
que si on ne le tenoit pas ferme sur la corde, on tomboit dans l’eau. Les appartements
estoient percés à jour et lorsqu’on estoit couché dans son lit on se sentir enlevé imper
ceptiblement du premier au troisieme. Il y avoit au plus élevé un thèatre et toutes les
choses nécessaries pour reprise un pièce à machines. Enfin Esselin [sic] n’avait rien
oublié pour y diverter ceux qui y venoient pour lui rendre visite. Comme il n’avait point
d’enfant il donna en mourant sa maison avec sa charge a Dupon qui avait esté
compagnon de ses plaisirs. Esselin fut empoisonné par son valet de chamber qui voulon
profiter de son argent. J’ai vu (je crois que c’est dans Guy Patin que c’etait pour toucher plus
vite un legs que son maitre lui avait fait).
Dans les papiers de [Conrant?] a l’Arsenal il y a une letter [immomée?] du Duc de Guise
racontant comment la reine Christine venant en France fut reçu à Chantemerle
par Hesselin. B.J.P. 10 7th 1894.
Il y a d’Hessselin 2 portraits graves par Nanteuil et une medaillade
Au revers [Dune, duperre?] vita [moveteur?] avec une acquarelle ai montée
Sa [maidma?] ete grave aussì.
Le 9 janvier 1895. J’ai eu le plaisir d’acheter d’un ouvrier tailleur nommé
Barthelot dans Boulevard Clichy une grosse montre de carosse n’ayant pour
tout ornament qu’une tres belle frise à jouer dans laquelle est l’ecu des armes
d’Hesselin. Elle eu de Zacharie Martinot. Comme elle est anterieure
à l’invention des pendules (balancieurs) et [spedrams?], elle a été [appui prevés?] à
l’invention de Huggens par Goudron qui a mis son nom sous le [spirale = crossed out] coq.
Je la ferai dessiner ci-dessous si Dieu me permet de vivre assez pour
cela 17 aoust 1895. Nul doute que ce ne soit le montre dont se servait
Hesselin dans ses voyages à Essone et ailleurs. Barthelot m’a dit
que sa femme et sa belle soeur avaient hérité en Normandie de cette
montre de carosse.
Inscription
[pp. 1-7, handwritten in pen, hand of Baron Jérome Pichon (b.1812, d.1896)]
Translation of inscription:
ROYAL BALLET of the night. divided into four parts or four watches and danced by His Majesty (Louis XIV), 23 February 1653 (story Benserade). Paris, Ballard, 1653, fol., Yellow leather, double fillet, gold.
Attached to the text, in this copy, are 124 coloured drawings of costumes representing all the characters and attitudes, as well as the staging of different acts. Found in the text are the names of all people who performed in the ballet, as well as the roles they played. Moliere is listed almost always with the King. These drawings, drawn with spirit, are full of originality, we notice prinicipally the beggars of the Court of Miracles.
[p. 1:] The designs that Hesselin placed in this folio of the Ballet de la Nuit are definitely those that were used for the making of the costumes for the ballet and for its staging.

The book bears the coat of arms of Louis Cauchon, known as Hesselin, Maître de la chambre aux deniers de la Maison du Roi and Surintendant des Plaisirs of the King. He was a man who had great taste, a bibliophile, and a lover of all that was beautiful. Sauval and various other contemporaries sang the praises of his glorious house at quai de Bethune on the corner of rue Poulletier (only the interior decoration remains), still existing today, and of his house in Chantemerle near Essone. It was Hesselin who organised the entertainments at the court during Louis XIV’s minority, and like all great lords, indeed like the King himself, took part in the court ballets. Indeed, in this Ballet de la Nuit, Hesselin appears [four times = crossed out] twice, 1. the Master in charge of the court of Miracles, 2. Jupiter [3. Alcemene 4. Belfano = crossed out] (1st Act 1st scene and 2nd Act scenes 12, 13 and 14).

As was the custom with Benserade, the lines written for the characters Hesselin played were to do with the actor rather than the character. The richness, chivalry and good taste of Hesselin were in fact the subject.

Félibien tells us in his ‘Lives of the Artists’ of 1688 in 4o, vol. 2, p. 177 that Hesselin had Stefano Della Bella make several designs, among them a volume of all the ballets and masquerades, which was at Versailles in 1688, with other volumes belonging to the Cabinet du Roi [of the King]. (This volume doubtless bore the King’s arms). It seems clear to me that this present volume, bound with the arms of Hesselin, and containing some of the characters of which several (such as the court of Miracles) were dealt with

[p. 3:]

precisely in the style of Callet and his pupil Della Bella, had been ordered by Hesselin from Della Bella for the staging and execution of the Ballet de la Nuit, and subsequently brought together with the printed text and bound on the orders of Hesselin, organiser of the entertainment, and for his use. According to Félibien, it appears that the [collection = crossed out] volume at Versailles contained several ballets, while this volume contains only one.

Is it the collection cited by Félibien as being at Versailles in 1688, or a similar collection, or is it one of several volumes of this type that belonged to André-Charles Boulle, the famous cabinet-maker, and which were lost in the fire at his workshop, or at least some of them, as mentioned by Mariette in his “Abécédario” under the name ‘Boulle’? According to Mariette, many things survived the fire, although of minor value compared to what was lost, and a public auction was held which lasted a long time, where the remainder of one of the most beautiful collections ever assembled was exhibited. If the collection of theatre costumes by Della Bella belonged to Boulle it would have comprised several volumes, these volumes would necessarily resemble this one and maybe this volume is in fact one of those volumes saved from the fire.

This precious volume was obligingly sold to me around 1847 for 4 or 500 francs by the Marquis de Coislin of blessed memory, who had bought the library of Mr Bourdillon. The latter was an enthusiast of great taste, but very obsessed, who lived in seclusion at Chambery, which he called ‘the kidney’ (that is to say the best place) in Europe – he did not get along with Motteley who called him that stunted oddball – he was small. The printed note which is stuck below my book plate is cut from Mr. Bourdillon’s printed (but not published) catalogue. In this note, yellow leather is referred to as marbled leather,

[p. 5:]

and the watered silk as marbled paper. [Molière the dancer would have taken aim there at our great comic author?]. Mr Bourdillon must have died in Switzerland between 1855 and 1860, and the Marquis de Coislin also.

To find out more about Louis Cauchan known as Hesselin, see my note on p. 248 in the Journeys of Lister (and Evelyn), noting that the excerpt cited by Félibien is on p. 177 (not p. 77). I should add to this that 1) according to a note written by a member of the Cauchan family in the 17th century, Hesselin died on the 9th of August 1662 (and not in 1664 as I had read in Guy Patin) and was buried in his parish on the Île de Notre Dame. This note can be found in my copy of David’s Psalter which belonged to Claude de Viques, the royal bookbinder, in 1559 (in 92 vols) 3) [sic] there’s a quite pretty engraving after Ferdinand showing a quantity of cupids dedicated to Hesselin 4) not only did Hesselin appear in the Ballet de la Nuit but also in the following ballets:

The Marriage of Thetis and Peleus in 1654 in which he played the role of centaur and also the Master of the academy
Ballet des Proverbs of 1654 in which he played a bourgeois who thrashes a boaster
Ballet Royal des Plaisirs of 1655 in which he played a man in love giving a serenade
Ballet d’Alcidiane of 1658 in which he played the role of a woman
Finally in the Ballet of Hercules in Love of 1662, I note that a Hesselin the younger played the role of a zephyr – this can’t be him and it was always assumed he was the last of his line
BJP [Baron Jérome Pichon] 17 August 1887

I discovered in an unusual little book called “The Map of French Provinces” published by Etienne du Castin, Paris 1693 in 12 volumes (volume of 44 pages which does not carry out the promise of its title), a passage concerning Hesselin which is curious as it is the only contemporary account which mentions these machines, by which, according to Sauval’s words, the ingenious Hesselin was served. ‘The little river (the Essone), surrounds the park (of Chantemerle, not that of Hesselin’s house), and acts as a moat. The part surrounding the house is filled with running water and one can see a type of swing, arranged so

[p. 7:]

that if the rope is not held firmly, one falls in the water. The apartments are filled with light and when one is lying in bed, it feels as if one is moving imperceptibly from the first to the third floor. He also built a theatre and all the equipment necessary to put on plays using mechanical apparatus. In short, Esselin [sic] had not left anything out with which to entertain those who came to visit him. As he did not have any children, he bequeathed his house and all his goods to Dupon who had accompanied him on these pleasures. Esselin was poisoned by his valet who was after his money. I saw (I think in Guy Patin) that it was to benefit more quickly from a legacy that Esselin had left him.

In the papers of [Conrant?] at the Arsenal, there’s a [?] letter from the Duc de Guise recounting how Hesselin received Queen Christina of Sweden, at Chatermerle, when she came to France.
BJP [Baron Jérome Pichon] 10 July 1894

There are two portraits of Hesselin engraved by Nanteuil and a medal on the reverse [....?] with a watercolour mounted on it, his [?] was also engraved.

9th January 1895. I recently had the pleasure to buy a large carriage clock from a tailor named Barthelot in Boulevard Clichy on which the only ornament is a very beautiful openwork frieze with the Hesselin coat of arms. It had come from Zacharie Martinot. As it was from before the invention of [pendulum clocks?], it had been [?] to the invention of Huggens by Goudron who has put his name on the [spring = crossed out] cover of the pendulum. I will make a drawing of it below if God allows me to live long enough.
17th August 1895 There is no doubt that this was the clock that Hesselin used on his journeys to Essone and elsewhere. Barthelot told me that his wife and sister-in-law inherited this clock from a relative in Normandy.
Labels:
BALLET ROYAL DE LA NUICT. divisé en quatre
parties ou quatre veilles et dansé par Sa Majesté
(Louis XIV), le 23 fevrier 1653 (vers de Benserade).
Paris, Ballard, 1653, in-fol., mar. citron doublé
de moire, fil., tr. dor.

On a joint au texte, dans cet exemplaire, 124 des-
sins coloriés représentant tous les costumes des per-
sonnagers et leurs attitudes, ainsi que la scène des dif-
férens actes.

On trouve dans le texte le nom de toutes les per-
sonnes qui ont figuré dans ce ballet, ainsi que les
rôles qu'elles remplissaient. Moliere y figure presque
toujours avec le Roi.

Ces dessins, touché avec esprit, sont pleins d'ori-
ginalité, on y remarque prinicipalement ceux qui re-
présentent les gueux de la cour des Miracles.
Printed label
[inside front cover, printed label]
Language:
French

History

Provenance:
Owned by Louis Hesselin (b.1602, d.1662); acquired by a M. Bourdillon (d. c. 1855); acquired by Marquis de Coislin (b.1801, d.1873) as part of Bourdillon's library before 1847; this volume sold to Baron Jérome Pichon (b.1812, d.1896) circa 1847 for 400 or 500 francs; sold in his sale, Paris, 17-21 May 1897, lot 961; bought at the Pichon sale by Damascène Morgand (b.1840, d.1898) for 3,951 francs; sold to Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) by Morgand for 3,420 francs plus 15% commission; inherited by his sister Miss Alice de Rothschild (b.1849, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Exhibition history:
'Versailles: The Chateau and its History in Books and Pictures', National Book League, London, 1953, no. 62
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957

Bibliography

Bibliography

Charles I. Silin; Benserade and his Ballets de Cour; Baltimore; John Hopkins University Press; 1940; pp. 214-28.
Versailles: The Chateau and its History in Books and Pictures, Catalogue of an Exhibition; London; National Book League; 1953; no. 62; with attribution to Della Bella.
Marie-Françoise Christout; Le Ballet de Cour au XVIIe Siècle; Geneva; Minkoff; 1987; pp. 36, 87, 100, 103, 105, 175, 181, ill.
Stanley Sadie; The New Grove Dictionary of Opera; London; Macmillan & Co Ltd; 1993; pp. 293-4, ill.
Alain Gruber, The Ballet Royal de la Nuit, Apollo, 139, April 1994, 34-40; pp. 34-40, ill.; with some inaccuracies.
Roger Parker; Oxford Illustrated History of Opera; Oxford; Oxford University Press; 1994; p. 34, ill.
Andre Chastel; L'art francais - L'Ancien Régime, 1620 - 1775; Paris; Flammarion; 1995; pp. 21-22, ill.
Jérôme de La Gorce; Féeries d'opéra: Décors, machines et costumes en France, 1645-1765; Chateau de Chambord, Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, 5 juillet-20 novembre 1997; Paris; Editions du patrimoine; 1997; pp. 34-7, figs 12, 14.
Francesco Milesi; Giacomo Torelli: l'invenzione scenica nello'Europa barocca; Italy; Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Fano; 2000; pp. 236-40, figs 2, 4, 6, 8.
Juliet Carey, Louis XIV and dance: an examination of Waddesdon's source for Le ballet de la nuit, 6th Annual Dance Symposium, 21 April 2004, Early Music, 32, August 2004, 486-7; pp. 486-7.
Juliet Carey; Des chefs-d'oeuvre discrets: la collection de dessins; Les collections exceptionnelles des Rothschild: Waddesdon Manor (Hors-série de l'Estampille/l'Objet d'Art, No. 14), Dijon, Éditions Faton, 2004; 56-63; pp. 56-63.
Marie-Françoise Christout; Le ballet de cour de Louis XIV 1643-1672 (Nouv. éd.); Paris; Éditions A. et J. Picard; 2005; pl. IV, fig. 6.
Michael Burden, Jennifer Thorp; Ballet de la Nuit: Rothschild B1/16/6; Hillsdale; Pendragon Press; 2009; pp. 1-192.
Muriel Zagha, Divine Right, World of Interiors, April 2010, 77-81; pp. 77-81, ill.
Hendrik Schulze; Französischer Tanz und Tanzmusik in Europa zur Zeit Ludwigs XIV.: Identität, Kosmologie und Ritual; Hildesheim; Olms Verlag; 2012; ill. [n. p.]; as part of front matter.
Michel Jeanneret; Versailles: ordre et chaos; Paris; Éditions Gallimard; 2012; pp. 189, 192, figs 72, 74.
Giles Barber, Graham Pollard, Geoffrey de Bellaigue; Printed Books and Bookbindings: The James A. de Rothschild Bequest at Waddesdon Manor, The National Trust; 2 volumes; Waddesdon; The Rothschild Foundation, RF; 2013; vol. 2, pp. 546-49, cat. no. 36.
Sébastien Daucé; Le Concert Royal de la Nuit; Harmonia Mundi; 2015

Indexed terms