Le Docteur Muët

(The Mute Doctor)

probably printed by Robert Ballard (French, d.1679)
probably contemporary with acc. no. 3666.1
Place of production:
Paris, France
letterpress and woodcut on paper
Type of object:
Accession number:
One of a set, see others


Perhaps a satire on the use of silent gesture in ballet, this poem appears to be connected to the performance of "Le Ballet de la Nuit" at the French court in February 1653. It is bound into a volume that also contains the booklet of the ballet's text and original designs for the costumes and stage sets (acc. no. 3666.1 and 3666.3). One of the illustrations shows a doctor, not a character in the ballet, and therefore probably relates to this poem (acc. no. 3666.3.88). It may be that the poem was performed as an amusing prelude to the main ballet by a dancer dressed in character.

The poem describes a doctor who is unable to speak. He relies on the language of his body to communicate to the eyes rather than the ears of his patients and audience. The poem ends by lamenting the fact that this character has little success at court because he can not have the ear of the young King Louis XIV. The illustration of the doctor shows him in the pose of a dancer, with his front foot turned out (acc. no. 3666.3.88). It may be that the poem acted as a satire of the mute language of dance to the courtiers who performed and watched the ballet, and who also sought the ear of the King.

The headpiece that appears above the poem is the same as that used on the pages introducing each of the four acts of the ballet, indicating that the poem was also printed by Robert Ballard.

Phillippa Plock, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
342 x 243
Physical details:
folio, 2 pages, printed on first page only
upper right, pencil


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.
Part of:
Le Ballet Royal de La Nuit: A book made up of two publications and a collection of costume and scenery designs based around Isaac Benserade's "Ballet de la Nuit" which was danced in 1653. 3666.1-3
Exhibition history:
'Versailles: The Chateau and its History in Books and Pictures', National Book League, London, 1853, no. 62
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



Michael Burden, Jennifer Thorp; Ballet de la Nuit: Rothschild B1/16/6; Hillsdale; Pendragon Press; 2009; pp. viii, 10n, 83, 117, ill.
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.

Indexed terms