The Fairy Ballet Carnival

And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like bishops, lawyers, peers, or spies.
Last came Anarchy; he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.

PB ShelleyThe Masque of Anarchy, 1832

“The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in 16th and early 17th century Europe [..and..] involved music and dancing, singing and acting, within an elaborate stage design, in which the architectural framing and costumes might be designed by a renowned architect, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron.” [source]


“The designs [..below..] are from the workshop of Daniel Rabel (1578-1637), the artist responsible for creating costumes for the spectacular entertainments performed by and for the French court. The ballets were based on the social dances of the day, but this was social dance elevated to an elaborate art form which combined choreography with poetry, music, song and pageanty, and included elements of satire and burlesque.


The ballets were enormously popular. Most were given at least three performances and all required a great amount of work from their creators and performers[..] Some professional dancers, actors and singers took part but the majority of the participants were members of the nobility. Many of these aristocratic amateurs were skilled performers, including the King, who adored dancing and devised some of the ballets himself.” [source]


The sketches in this post (slightly cropped and lightly background spot-cleaned) are from a suite of about ninety illustrations in a 1620s album by Daniel Rabel, encompassing three ballets: Ballet des Fées de la forêt de Saint Germain, Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut and Ballet du Chasteau de Bicêtre.

humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée des hiboux et des corneilles
Enter owls and crows

Ballet du Chasteau de Bicêtre

(technique/materials – this applies to all drawings below) watercolour, brown ink & pen, silver & gold highlights
(keywords) carnival, stage costume, fancy dress, dance

humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Jacqueline l’Entendue et un hibou
Jacqueline l’Entendue (character) and an owl

Ballet des Fées de la forêt de Saint Germain

carnival, dance, fancy dress, bird

humorous caricature - grotesque masque ballet
Entrée du Roi

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