Scenery Design of Shops for First Watch, 7th-14th Entrées: "Ballet de la Nuit"

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


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 is the second scenery design 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 first Watch of the night depicts the activities at the end of the day. After the god of the sea, Proteus, comes ashore, there is a series of realistic tableaux in which characters prepare for the end of the day. After a pastoral scene, the ballet moves to the town. Fashionable shoppers and their servants are followed by the more marginal street-life shown in this scene: gypsies, a knife-grinder, thieves who attack the wealthy in their sedan chairs, beggars and invalids. The women looking at the dancers from the shops on the sides of the scenes would have echoed Louis XIV's female courtiers whose main role was to be the audience as they did not participate in the ballet.

Phillippa Plock, 2013

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
206 x 405 (image size)
Signature & date:
not signed or dated


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
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



Marie-Françoise Christout; Le Ballet de Cour au XVIIe Siècle; Geneva; Minkoff; 1987; p. 105, fig. 89.
Michael Burden, Jennifer Thorp; Ballet de la Nuit: Rothschild B1/16/6; Hillsdale; Pendragon Press; 2009; pp. 5, 131, ill.

Indexed terms