Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts | Licence: CC0 1.0
Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts | Licence: CC0 1.0

Drawing of Two 'Americans' for Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut

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From the Collection


Drawing featuring two theatrical figures in costumes with feather decorations for 'Le Grand Bal de la Douairière de Billebahaut' (The Grand Ball of the Dowager of Billebahaut), a popular ballet burlesque written by René Bordier in 1626. With the young Louis XIII as the star performer, the ballet was performed at the Louvre and the Hôtel de Ville in February of 1626. Featuring an elaborate procession of foreigners arriving from the four parts of the world, the performance lasted over three hours. First arrives 'America,' and the party is lead by King Atabalipa and his musicians. King Atabalipa, ruler of Cuzco, was the fictional leader of Peru, which emphasizes the lack of discernment between North and South America in French lyric literature. The 'Americans' are denoted by feathered headdresses and costumes: in this drawing they wear long-sleeved tonnelets with pleated, scallop-edged skirts, decorated with feather bands and belts, over mid-calf brown breeches bordered with colored feathers. Their feet are bare, and their doublets are skin-colored and with geometric motifs in black, likely simulating the body painting often worn by Native Americans. They wear colorful headpieces, also made up of feathers, and hold large mirrors (?) in their hands. They are represented in movement, possibly performing some kind of dance or in action during some battle. Medium: pen and brown ink, watercolor with silver and gold ink.
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Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts

From the Watercolour World


Paris, France