The art of disguise makes up but one of the multiple forms of human fantasy and this explains its undeniable power of seduction. In another era, the royal courts of Europe held performances in which multiple artistic expressions converged, with architecture, and with costume design: an excess of the imagination that inspired both artists and nobles alike. The creation of scenery and costumes for these performances saw one of its greatest exponents in painter, botanist, and illustrator, Daniel Rabel (1578-1637). Rabel was, for decades, in charge of all of this for the court of Louis XIII. His legacy, fortunately, was not lost to time and survives in the designs he created for countless ballets performed for the French court.

The well-known mascaradas, courtly ballets, were a type of entertainment which flourished in the Europe of the late 16th- and early 17th-centuries. It combined a graceful poetry with music, dance, performing arts, and song, as well as with careful scenery design (often constructed by renowned architects) and fantastic costumes. Among all of this, Rabel’s designs stand out for their seeming naive beauty. Such performance included allegorical plots in which actors personified virtues or vices, and the entire story resulted in a battle between them, that is, between good and evil.

These kinds of performances, including also elements of satire and burlesque, were so popular that, at times, a specific ballet might repeat performances multiple times to please audiences which included even high-ranking members of the royalty. Tastes were such that many courtiers acted, sang, and played music, often alongside groups of professional artists. In some cases, performances included interpretations of Louis XIII himself, (and who, incidentally, also participated in the conceptualization of many of them).

Having been a court artist and artist for several noble patrons, between 1617 and 1637, Rabel designed the sets and costumes for a tremendous number of ballets. His designs, steeped in the grotesque aesthetic of the time, used comedy, exaggeration, and facial distortion. These then created characters representing values like evil, corruption, naivete, and purity, and all in an imaginative exercise that referred back to the entire conception of the world and a way of thinking that favored, above all, the purest realm of fantasy.

This selection of images is part of a collection of about 90 sketches made by Rabel during the 1620s. It includes material from three court ballets: the Ballet des Fées de la forêt de Saint Germain, the Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut and the Ballet du Chasteau de Bicêtre.

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Images: Public domain

The art of disguise makes up but one of the multiple forms of human fantasy and this explains its undeniable power of seduction. In another era, the royal courts of Europe held performances in which multiple artistic expressions converged, with architecture, and with costume design: an excess of the imagination that inspired both artists and nobles alike. The creation of scenery and costumes for these performances saw one of its greatest exponents in painter, botanist, and illustrator, Daniel Rabel (1578-1637). Rabel was, for decades, in charge of all of this for the court of Louis XIII. His legacy, fortunately, was not lost to time and survives in the designs he created for countless ballets performed for the French court.

The well-known mascaradas, courtly ballets, were a type of entertainment which flourished in the Europe of the late 16th- and early 17th-centuries. It combined a graceful poetry with music, dance, performing arts, and song, as well as with careful scenery design (often constructed by renowned architects) and fantastic costumes. Among all of this, Rabel’s designs stand out for their seeming naive beauty. Such performance included allegorical plots in which actors personified virtues or vices, and the entire story resulted in a battle between them, that is, between good and evil.

These kinds of performances, including also elements of satire and burlesque, were so popular that, at times, a specific ballet might repeat performances multiple times to please audiences which included even high-ranking members of the royalty. Tastes were such that many courtiers acted, sang, and played music, often alongside groups of professional artists. In some cases, performances included interpretations of Louis XIII himself, (and who, incidentally, also participated in the conceptualization of many of them).

Having been a court artist and artist for several noble patrons, between 1617 and 1637, Rabel designed the sets and costumes for a tremendous number of ballets. His designs, steeped in the grotesque aesthetic of the time, used comedy, exaggeration, and facial distortion. These then created characters representing values like evil, corruption, naivete, and purity, and all in an imaginative exercise that referred back to the entire conception of the world and a way of thinking that favored, above all, the purest realm of fantasy.

This selection of images is part of a collection of about 90 sketches made by Rabel during the 1620s. It includes material from three court ballets: the Ballet des Fées de la forêt de Saint Germain, the Ballet de la Douairière de Billebahaut and the Ballet du Chasteau de Bicêtre.

rabel14
rabel13
rabel12
rabel11 
rabel10
rabel9
rabel8
rabel7 
 rabel6 
rabel5 
rabel4
rabel3
rabel2
rabel1
 

 

 

Images: Public domain