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Costume Design for Gaming, Second Watch, 2nd Entrée: "Ballet de la Nuit"

Attributed to:
Gissey, Henri (b.c 1621, d.1673)
Date:
1653
design for 1653 performance
Place of production:
Paris, France
Medium:
pen, gouache and watercolour
Type of object:
watercolours
Accession number:
3666.3.49
One of a set, see others

Commentary

The sumptuous "Ballet de la Nuit" was staged six times for the French court at the Louvre, Paris, between 23 February and 16 March 1653. The young Louis XIV and his male courtiers performed in the ballet along with professional dancers. This costume design for the character of Gaming (played by Louis XIV) is from the set of 129 designs produced for the ballet, detailing the costumes and scenery (see acc. nos 3666.3 and 3666.3.1-129).

The Second Watch of the ballet covers the period between 9pm and midnight. This was a time for evening entertainment, so in this part of the ballet there are two plays-within-plays and a grand ball. Marking a change of symbolism from the preceding Watch, genre gives way to mythology, allegory and literary allusion. This Watch has some of the ballet's most inventive costumes. In the first scene, the Three Fates, Old Age and Sadness mark the disorder of Night. In the second scene, Venus descends from the heavens and chases them away, allowing representations of gaming, laughter, marriage and revelry to take to the stage.

This costume is one of the most inventive of the ballet, and includes dice as buttons, playing cards as belt and hat ornaments, and a chess board as a collar. The character of Gaming, with similarly extraordinary costumes, featured in two earlier ballets (see Marie-Françoise Christout; Le Ballet de Cour au XVIIe Siècle; Geneva; Minkoff; 1987, p. 89).

Phillippa Plock, 2013

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
342 x 243
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
Inscriptions:
Le Roy
Inscription
[handwritten in graphite, lower centre]
Translation of inscription:
The King
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.
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
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957

Bibliography

Bibliography

Alain Gruber, The Ballet Royal de la Nuit, Apollo, 139, April 1994, 34-40; p. 37, pl. IV,; wrongly captioned as 'Le Feu'.
Michael Burden, Jennifer Thorp; Ballet de la Nuit: Rothschild B1/16/6; Hillsdale; Pendragon Press; 2009; pp. 4, 6, 27, 41, 58, 148, 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, p. 548, ill.
David Pullins, Techniques of the Body: Viewing the Arts and Métiers of France from the Workshop of Nicolas I and Nicolas II de Larmessin, Oxford Art Journal, 2015; p. 12, fig. 9.

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