Marie De Medici's 1605 Ballet De la Reine: New Evidence and Analysis

By Gough, Melinda J. | Early Theatre, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Marie De Medici's 1605 Ballet De la Reine: New Evidence and Analysis


Gough, Melinda J., Early Theatre


Scholars have known very little about the three French court ballets for which Marie de Medici (1575-1642), queen consort to Henri IV of France, was both patron and highest ranking dancer. (1) This gap in knowledge is especially pronounced for her January 1605 unnamed ballet de la reine for good reason: no recit or verse text seems extant, while other sources confuse questions of dating or offer only scattered clues regarding the ballet's 'magnificence', its dancers' gem-studded costumes, and the remarkably large audience. (2) An unsigned manuscript letter authored by a spectator at the Louvre performance, however, offers significant new information. This letter, archived among the manuscripts collected by the famous seventeenth-century antiquarian Nicolas-Fabri de Peiresc, has remained unknown to ballet de cour scholars despite having been roughly paraphrased by Louis Battifol in 1930. (3) Battifol's description of the ballet's events is incomplete and partly inaccurate, (4) but direct study of the manuscript itself, in conjunction with readings of other neglected documents, can correct the historical record.

This essay presents the first scholarly edition of this eye-witness account, including an introduction with discussion, an edited transcription of the newly discovered seventeenth-century manuscript, and an English translation with annotations. Given the striking absence of previous work on this ballet, I first situate the letter's description of the event by clarifying questions of the ballet's dating, identifying performance venues, and describing the audience. I then offer a brief structural overview of the ballet's onstage action; notes to the edition discuss in further detail particular elements of the letter's report as clarified by comparison with other contemporary references. This edition, I hope, will help to settle basic questions such as when, where, by whom, and for whom this ballet was performed, making available a wealth of new evidence regarding specific visual iconographies, choreographed dances, musical innovations, and elements of audience response. In addition, my discussion touches briefly on issues of authorship and reliability of the letter's narrative as historical evidence. Finally, I suggest what we can gain from studying this letter in terms of new insights regarding women's court ballet as a whole as well as individual aesthetic and socio-political contributions by Marie de Medici as patron-performer.

Discussion

Basic Questions of Performance History

Although previously known sources conflict regarding the 1605 ballet de la reine's date and location, (5) Jacques Compar, duc de La Force, asserts that Marie de Medici initiated rehearsals for the women's dancing no later than 10 January 1605, with the Louvre performance occurring in the early hours of 24 January. (6) The letter archived by Peiresc confirms this time period, specifying that an audience assembled at the Louvre late in the evening on 23 January while the ballet itself began at around one o'clock in the morning of 24 January. The Florentine ambassador in Paris, Baccio Giovannini, similarly reports that the ballet took place in the middle of the night, as does another source not previously identified, Le romant des chevaliers de Thrace, which offers a print description of a running at the barrier which took place in February 1605 but also briefly discusses Marie's ballet the previous month. (7) By reading such sources together with the letter found among Peiresc's collected papers we learn, too, that this ballet was repeated at multiple Paris locations over a period of seven hours. Our letter mentions that between four and eight o'clock in the morning, after the ballet's presentation at the Louvre, it was danced again at 'other assemblies', the first being the home of 'monsieur de Rhony' (Maximilien de Bethune, duc de Rosny and future duc de Sully, who resided in Paris at the Arsenal). La Force specifies further that the ballet's final location, following the Arsenal, was the archbishop's palace; (8) somewhat wearily, he adds, he spent the whole night scurrying about accompanying Henri IV, who wished to attend all three performances, and it wasn't until day that he with the king returned to the Louvre. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Marie De Medici's 1605 Ballet De la Reine: New Evidence and Analysis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.