Monday, June 17th 2013
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Daily Life at the Playhouse VII: ballets, fashion and consumerism at the Comédie-Française (1760-1780) by Sabine Chaouche

Daily Life at the Playhouse VII: ballets, fashion and consumerism at the Comédie-Française (1760-1780) by Sabine Chaouche
At the beginning of the 1750s the Comédie-Française faced major economic problems. Theatrical seasons were unsuccessful. Spectators were no longer interested in the plays from the repertoire. As Henri Louis Lekain stated in a memoir, the main objective of the company had been and would always be to “make a profit”. Thus the Comédiens ordinaires du Roy tried to find new ways of attracting Parisian audiences. They implemented customer-centred strategies to strengthen their business. In 1753, they decided to include ballets in their performances - which usually consisted of two plays. Grimm wrote in La Correspondance that dance was a “humiliating expedient (1)” to sustain revivals. The company invested a lot of money in dance costumes. Dance, which was supposed to be a minor spectacle, soon became an essential part of daily shows, not only because the audience took a fancy to ballets but also because it came to represent a major source of income for the company. Ballets stimulated new demands from spectators which impacted upon the new ballets which were to be created. A constant flow of orders to suppliers, especially to ‘marchandes de mode’, energised the Parisian economy. Ten years later, Nicolas Bricaire de La Dixmérie explained that ballets had become a must for the Comédie-Française. How did the sociétaires organise stage production? This article examines the development of dance costumes at the Comédie-Française. Based on primary sources such as bills and inventories, it scrutinizes the use of fabrics and colours, and gived a general overview of the different props and set designs relating to choreographies (2) .

The playhouse had a very particular status in Paris, which could be compared to the ‘marchandes de modes’ status as stated by Daniel Roche in La Culture des apparences (3) : it had an intermediary position in the economical life cycle, halfway between the production of goods (e.g. through fabrics, raw materials) and production of shows (through final stage-productions), between buying from suppliers and selling to customers. The Comédie-Française had to deal with suppliers who could either offer a service or sell a product, sometimes both. Its business operations involved sources of supply and supply services, i.e. strong logistics within Paris (4) . As stated by Pauline Lemaigre-Gaffier in her recent PhD thesis (5) , the Comédie-Française, as well as the Académie royale de musique or Court entertainments were themselves a major source of supply for Parisian audiences in search of frivolity and entertainments. It stimulated commerce and consumerism, depended on fashions (e.g. performances, costumes, and scenery were adapted to demand). It was also influenced by the changes of and in the city, its citizens’ social habits and behaviour. The Comédie-Française had therefore a sort of rolling and moving business which was on the whole in line with its customers’ aspirations or new trends (e.g. Chinese or Indian plays).

Entertainment products were created the whole year round at the Comédie-Française and performances took place every day (6) . Because the playhouse would and could never stop performances and because rivalries with the Académie Royale de musique, the Italian troupe and the fairground theatres intensified during the period, all efforts were geared toward producing - and thus ingratiating spectators and securing annual memberships as argued by John Golder (abonnements) (7) . Actors became hyper-productive. Being essentially entertainments (divertissements), ballets probably played a major role in attracting spectators (8) : the Comédie-Française had debt in the 1750s but progressively made a profit, especially in the 1770s when they moved to the Tuileries (9) . They were carefully prepared. (They were most generally part of a play, such as the comedies-ballet Le Malade imaginaire or Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, or a separate play.) Thirty-two (1764), and later thirty-six dancers (1782), called the corps de rats, were recruited by the actors. Dancers had a specific status in the playhouse since they were employees and not sociétaires (10) . It is usually accepted that actors bought their own theatrical wardrobe and that aristocrats occasionally granted them a dress or an outfit. However, the Comédie-Française dressed its dancers. Consequently, most of the bills (1760s-1780s) which are kept at the Bibliothèque-Musée de la Comédie-Française include the expenses for the ballets such as musical instruments, clothes and props as well as the wages for musicians and dancers.

The most interesting invoices concern stage production (stagehands’ bills, Paulo Brunetti’s bills), fabrics and clothing by Pontus, tailor at the Comédie-Française. Suppliers can be divided in different classes which relate to costumes and fashion accessories (headdresses, props): fabrics from haberdashers, linen shopkeepers, marchandes de mode, silk manufacturers furnishing fabrics; clothes from tailors or dressmakers; feather workers (plumassiers), various supplies by florists, flowers makers (marchands de fleurs) (11) , wigmakers, jewellers, second hand clothes dealers, goods or services provided by painters and machine makers. The Comédie-Française had therefore different types of suppliers depending on the service or product ordered for the ballet. Minor suppliers would respond to occasional or very specific demands and particular goods (e.g.: stays – baleines de corset -, laces, pins, little bells, and headdresses). The network of suppliers, which were mainly local suppliers (i.e. in the faubourg Saint-Germain, and not necessarily rue Saint-Honoré where many fabrics were sold by merchants), suggests that the Comédie-Française mostly developed links with corner shops and therefore had a strong influence on the economics of the quartier but also on trends through the creation of its costumes since new productions were permanently generated.

Ballets were normally very popular during the period (e.g. costume balls, masquerades). Although dance and costumes at court or at the Académie Royale de musique has been examined by several scholars such as for instance Jérôme de la Gorce (12) , Marie-Claude Canova-Green (13) or Françoise Dartois-Lapeyre (14) , and although the comédie-ballet by Molière was scrutinized by Charles Mazouer (15) for instance, dance costumes at the Comédie-Française in the eighteenth century have been a neglected topic – though most of them were probably influenced by the Opera’s and the Menus Plaisirs du roi’s designs which aimed to amaze the audience (e.g.: use of small mirrors and gems were sometimes sewed on the fabrics). Unfortunately, iconography on ballets at the Comédie-Française is also very limited but invoices (16) , i.e. handwritten documents can give a good idea of the types of dance costumes which were created in the second part of the eighteenth-century and which were likely inspired by Noverre’s ideas. He claimed in 1760 that dancers should give way their tonnelets to be more elegant and graceful on stage (17) . No tonnelets were ordered by the Comédie-Française in the second part of the eighteenth century. In this respect, stage productions were modern and innovative.

The Comédie-Française would sometimes rent costumes (18) . However, the turnover and orders were considerable especially concerning fabrics: in the 1780s, a period of financial and economic crisis, actors spent between 3,000 livres and 5,500 livres per year to buy fabrics (these amounts do not include tailors’ and other suppliers’ bills). Dance costumes can be considered as an ephemeral product which was permanently renewed in order to surprise the spectators. Hence, theatre was not only a visual spectacle but also an empire of luxury. What can be drawn from bills concerning dance costumes?

Pontus became responsible for designing clothes for the actors and the dancers. His work was very important, if not essential to the company (19) . Interestingly tailors such as Pontus would charge extra for their own designs: in February 1767, necklaces’ and ‘combat uniforms’ (wiremesh) designs were charged a few livres (20) . Bills give other examples: in 1760 the creation of a headdress style for the dancer Vestris had to be paid for; in the 1760s, the design of nine shirts was charged 3 livres and in June 1772, the design of a costume was charged 15 livres. In July 1759, the design of a turban cost (21) 4 livres, and two comical hats for Allard’s ballet, ‘dans le goût bouffon’ (i.e. farcical style) cost 14 livres. This means that tailors would commercialise their talent or signature selling them as a trade-mark. The tailor which had been considered as a craftsman until the mid-eighteenth century was regarded more and more as an artist, i.e. a wardrobe master or a real fashion designer. The link with trends was therefore very strong since the tailor or the marchande de mode could initiate fashions through ballets or even plays. Hence hats such as a ‘pouf à la Figaro’ or a ‘pouf à la Bayard’ (reference to The Mariage de Figaro by Beaumarchais and the tragedy of Gaston et Bayard by Pierre Laurent Buirette de Belloy) were created in the 1780s. Dressing and dressing up were very important and had a social impact on the audience, especially women who liked fashion. According to Jennifer Jones, “clothing became the problematic emblem of modernity” (22) . It was related to taste (especially “good taste”) and identity. Dance costumes, both modern and innovative, led the way, playing a significant role in producing and staging fashion shows as well as creating an image of femininity (female dancers) and frivolity to which women could identify.

Pontus’ memoirs show the colours and types of fabrics ordered from suppliers. Lively colours such as red, green and yellow were most generally used, i.e. quite traditional ones. However bills relating to fabrics reflect a variety of hues (madder – rouge garance - scarlet red, crimson red, cherry red, royal blue, white, daffodil yellow, straw-coloured, lemon, sunrise, grey and pink, Saxony green, apple green, purple, hazel colour, apricot and flesh colour (23) ) as well as different geographical origins (net or silk from Lyon, thread from Brittany, net from England, fabrics from Italy) (24) . New fashion trends or new techniques for printed fabrics are shown through bills and archival material such as inventories. Different types of fabrics were ordered from cloth merchants: ras-de-castor, serge, muslin, silk etc. They were an important element of staging and were used not only for clothes but also for sets. Wool fabrics such as Silesia wool, calmande, baracan, Camelot, velvet or silk fabrics such as watered silk, taffeta, as well as golden and silver fabrics were used for costumes. Linings could be made of ras de castor, taffeta, serge and voile. Large pieces of fabrics could be used as hall coverings and reflected domestic habits. Striped fabrics appeared in the 1760s. Printing techniques helped in the creation of brilliant tints and colours, especially for representing foreign countries which became fashionable (The play, Le Magnifique, included a ballet with two square-dances –‘quadrille’-, one representing nobles and another one representing Chinese and black people (25) ). Exotic costumes were therefore made such as Turkish dresses with golden and silver damask and with a floral pattern. Two jackets (soubrevestes) were printed with a silver pattern (26) by Rocquet in July 1763 (he was working for the Menus Plaisirs du roi). A coat required twelve ells (aunes) to be printed with silver and gold (27) . In the 1770s, many costumes were painted in fiery colours (28) . Some fabrics were also painted or striped like a tiger or spotted like a leopard (29) (to paint 3 ells would cost 9 liv.). Cotton fabrics such as Indiennes, were richly decorated. They were used for instance for a Chinese ballet (11 costumes were ordered) and chosen by Deshayes (30) . Imported to Europe from the c16 (31) , they attracted Parisian consumers. Blue colours or flowery designs were very fashionable in the second part of the c18 and were bought to create costumes (32) , especially dance costumes: the costume of Love was made of taffeta with printed flowers (33) . Obviously, the range and profusion of fabrics depended on the type of ballet (rural such as the ‘Moulin de Javelle ballet’, exotic such as the Bourgeois gentilhomme and its Turkish ceremony, etc.). Interestingly, costumes for women were mainly made of taffeta, satin, gauze, pearls and even fur whatever the social background of the character which was staged. Hence some of the slave costumes were made of blue taffeta (34) ! The aim was to make wonderful dance costumes but not necessarily realistic ones.

Actors had to wear fashionable and new clothes rather than old ones. They suggested in a memoir sent to the king that spectators constantly wanted new costumes. They claimed: ‘Luxury changed everything. The costume became a must on stage and actors had to dress differently according to the period and country relating to the scene. Each part required new clothes; each new play required a new costume’. The taste for novelties and spectacular shows had a direct an impact on stage-productions: from the 1750s actors renewed their wardrobe more frequently (35) . A few actresses spent a huge amount of money for their theatrical costumes such as Mlle Lecouvreur. When she died, Mlle Pélissier from the Académie royale de musique bought them, spending 40 000 écus. She decided to wear a different costume every day whatever her part was. People rushed up, interested in this new kind of clothing exhibition and sartorial elegance. A dress à l’anglaise was ordered in 1779 for Mlle Vanoble (36) , i.e. at a time when feminine fashion began to change, being influenced by British trends. It explains why dance costumes were renewed as often as possible. Actors had an absolute control over stage-productions: any costume or set required their approval before being made. They strategically adapted the products to the demand.

Dressing up was part of the aristocratic culture during the period. Noble men and women liked to be on show, wearing spectacular outfits or dresses, using make-up in abundance (white face and red cheeks and lips). Their presentation in everyday life was theatrical (37) . Fanciful dance costumes and extravagant clothes or headdresses had therefore similar ornaments, such as ribbons, fake or natural flowers and would be made of the same luxurious fabrics. They most probably were made by the same tailors. Shiny and expensive dance costumes (i.e. made of silk, damask, or taffeta) reflected the aristocratic taste for luxury and munificence. Bills by Buffaud show that a costume requiring 4 ells of white English taffeta and 5 ells of white satin was made for Mlle Guyardette (38) and that dance costumes made of 5 ells of green English taffeta were designed for M. Deshayes and Demoyes (39) . These types of costumes were emphasized by lighting and participated in creating magical effect (such as fake gems used at Court Entertainments for sets). Besides, these fabrics were perfect for dancers who could easily move their body since fabrics were light and soft.

How was dance staged and what kind of props and accessories were used during the period? Each dancer would be granted individual accessories and clothes at the beginning of the theatrical season, such as: ‘pink necklaces’, ‘silver necklaces for ‘serious’ ballets, black necklaces with ribbons’, ‘russ’ fraises made of gauze’, ‘fresh-coloured necklaces’, ‘big handkerchiefs made of silk and small ones’, ‘shirts’, ‘rosettes’, ‘ties made of muslin’. Silver glitter (40) were also frequently used on stage (41) and contributed to the delivery of a luxurious and magical product. The Comédie-Française made an effort to compete with the Académie Royale de musique or court entertainments’ ballets and succeeded. Some members of the audience came specially to admire the dancers from the Comédie-Française, and would leave the playhouse when ballets ended. They were more interested in dance than in the comedies or tragedies which were performed by the actors - maybe because dance was at the art of European theatrical trends and reflected the taste for exotic and far away countries as we mentioned earlier (42) .

Tailors could be inspired by engravings circulating within France and representing the different patterns relating to national costumes or foreign countries (43) : Dutch woman: brown serge and jacket made of flaming coloured taffeta; Swiss man: red serge, blue lining (44) ; American: blue satin domino and pink soubreveste – jacket. Dance costumes related also to regions, professions or comical types: a Provencal outfit was made of striped lilac and taffeta, with a jacket made of white cotton and a scarf made of white taffeta), sailors outfits were made of blue taffeta with a lining made of yellow taffeta; a faun’s costume included a red shirt made of voile with a striped reverse side and leaves; the female faun costume was made of a flesh coloured bodice with drapery made of brown hairs, and a striped belt; ‘black people’ wore a black shirt with cherry trims and a silver mosaic.

Allegorical costumes such as that of Folly can also be found: it was made of brown and yellow taffeta with little bells; Dame Gigogne, a traditional character from the Old French Theatre: dress made of pink and blue burat; Punchinello was made of blue and pink burat or blue, pink and yellow satin; Scaramouch: his outfit made of black voile; Harlequin’s outfit was made of tinted voile; Briguelle’s costume was made of white serge and green padua (padoue); Mezzetin’s costume was made of pink and white striped taffeta; and finally Pantalon’s costume was made of a red jacket and trousers which were black trimmed. Obviously, dance costumes could vary from one ballet to another. They were not only influenced by French fashion or European national trends but also by theatrical types from rival playhouses such as the Italian characters. The Comédie-Française was innovative, being open to cultural exchanges or transfers (even if types had to be made more French through contemporary fashion trends). Pontus also mentioned the following props relating to Le Bourgeois gentilhomme’s ballet: ‘a Harlequin mask’, a ‘Harlequina mask’, ‘a Punchinello mask’ (45) . The Comtesse d’Escarbagnas’ chaconne included Italian masks (46) as well as the Dom Japhet’s chaconne which required the following ones: Punchinello, Pantalon with a beard, Harlequin and Harlequina. It also included a Dame Gigogne dress, marottes - a fool’s head on a stick-, a caduceus (a stick with snakes and wings, a symbol of medicine and/or Hermès), or a magic wand. Dance costumes would therefore be eclectic and heterogeneous, as well as colourful and fanciful; more or less realistic. Ballet was in a way a kind of luxurious carnival of figures including popular characters, traditional ones or invented ones. Masquerade and dressing up were part of a lively theatrical performance.

How were costumes managed? In an article concerning the economics of stage-production in the eighteenth century, in particular the Menus Plaisirs du roi, I showed that managers endeavoured to save money by recycling costumes which were carefully preserved in a warehouse or magasin (47) . The Comédie-Française did exactly the same. The main Comédie-Française’s i[Magasin ]I was located rue des Mauvais-Garçons (a building adjacent to the playhouse). In the 1770s another one was created conveniently around the Tuileries (rue de la Baroulière (48) ). A bill indicated also that the company had another warehouse in the Saint-Laurent fair, in the north of Paris; by the warehouse of the Menus Plaisirs rue Bergère (some sets were stored there).

Costumes would be used for revivals, but could eventually be dismantled for new productions. They were repaired when necessary (49) , especially props such as swords, hunting knives, shields, sabres which were quite common in ballets. Many invoices mentioned that props could be made of wood or paper: bows and arrows, and quivers (50) . Inventories of the warehouses and bills show that costumes and even props would not be exclusively made of expensive ornaments or fabrics. On the contrary, some suppliers would specialise in creating costumes made of fake material: ‘August 1763. Supplied a helmet made of squirrel fur (vair), a shield, a breastplate, Jupiter’s thunder enlightening (foudre de Jupiter), and a Mercury’s caduceus, […] all made of cardboard (51) . The world of theatre and its artificial elements would merge with real props or accessories which reflected fashion and trends, such as headdresses or hairstyles (e.g. a hairstyle ‘à la marquise’ (52) , ‘aigrette à la turque (53)’ , headbands (54) , country hats made of straw, of wool, Dutch hats, black sailors hats, Tartar hats, silver striped British hats (55) ). The Princesse d’Elide’s ballet required six white hats, four black ones with plumes (plummets) (56) and the Malade imaginaire (1764), 3 grey hats. Feathers were very common. In 1764, Lecuyer supplied six bouquets of four white plumes to six dancers, a coiffure made of six white plumes and black aigrette to the first dancer, as well as a three red plume bouquets with a black aigrette for Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, two white aigrettes mixed with black plumes for two Polish costumes (male and female), a three plume bouquet (red, yellow and black) for a Swiss costume (57) . They cost 80 livres. Actors did not skimp on expenses relating to dance costumes. Necklaces made of ribbons, gloves, belts, or flowers were also provided to dancers. Interestingly flowers show how national trends impacted on theatre. The French rocaille (Rococo) style which developed between 1730 and 1770 had a huge influence on society. Patterns such as leaves, shells, fruits, ribbons and flowers (58) commonly decorated furniture and clothes of the time. Dozens of real or fake flowers were ordered (59) , not only to decorate dresses but also sets.

Paulo Brunetti’s bills give information on decorations. In 1756, a cage, bushes, and various fan-shaped roses were represented in Mlle Allard’s ballet (60) . In 1760, the following set was created for Dehayes’s ballet: ‘three orange trees with fruit, flowers in green boxes, flowerbed’, ‘four yews with many flowers at the bottom’, ‘a fountain, the ground covered with flowers’ (61) . The Turkish ballet set included four seats covered with flowers (62) . In 1766-67, the Ballet du printemps was designed to create a pastoral scene : ‘a statue of Love’, ‘two orange trees, yews with painted flowers’, ‘two rows of lettuce’, ‘four flowerbeds’, ‘vegetables’. (63) Flowers and rural sets were predominant and reflected the rocaille style very well and thus were in line with the national trend. Actors adapted to demand by producing ballets which matched exactly the audience’s tastes. (64)

Parisian Theatres with privilège (a permission to perform granted by the king), such as the Comédie-Française were a focus for cultural and ideological exchanges in the eighteenth century and a platform for the development of new trends. In the second half of the eighteenth century spectacular shows were staged in Paris, mainly at the Académie royale de musique (opéras and ballets) as well as in Fontainebleau or Versailles (court entertainments). The craze for dance led the company to stage ballets and promote costumes, i.e. visual elements of the performance since they could play a major role in making a profit.

They were designed to create a magical product and thus amaze spectators. The production of ballets impacted therefore directly and strongly upon the playhouse’s own consumerism and the quality and quantity of its products. The expenditure increased significantly because of the costumes’ high cost and because the Comédie-Française was constantly creating new ones. The flow of orders was uninterrupted over the years, from 1753 to the 1780s. Ballets became a very popular performance because they show-cased fabrics, props and new stylish designs. They inspired the "marchandes de mode" and tailors. Theatre and fashion combined: ballets became fashionable; fashion was staged through dance.

Entertainments embodied the birth of a society more and more obsessed by luxury goods and new trends. By being itself a form of consumerism through its theatrical products, the production of shows, especially ballets and dance costumes made of glossy and beautiful fabrics, can therefore be regarded as being part of a thriving luxury industry where dressing and dressing up, the Social and the Scenic merge to create the Theatrical, as well as being at the root of the economic growth of the playhouse which turned fully Theatre into an Industry, i.e. a Business, in the c19.

Sabine Chaouche


1. Grimm, Friedriech Melchior Baron Von, Correspondance littéraire (Paris: Garnier frères, 1879); (réed. KRAUS: Nendeln/Liechtenstein, 1968), juillet 1753, 33.
2. I will not examine consumption but will focus on stage-production and the way in which costumes were created. I will scrutinise the bills kept by the Comédie-Française.
3. Daniel Roche, La Culture des apparences. Une histoire du vêtement XVIIe-XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Seuil, 1989), 279-280 and 291-293.
4. See two online articles which include a map of the suppliers during the period: ;
5. Pauline Lemaigre-Gaffier, Du cœur de la Maison du Roi à l’esprit des institutions : l’administration des Menus Plaisirs au XVIIIe siècle (PhD diss. Université Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne, 2011).
6. Actors only closed the playhouse after a sudden royal bereavement, during periods of mourning, for special events such as royal weddings, holy days or the annual closure between March and April.
7. William D. Howarth, French Theatre in the Neo-classical Era, 1550–1789 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 450.
8. See De La Dixmérie’s statement, supra. The project relating to the Comédie-Française’s Registers is on-going (directed by Professor Jeffrey Ravel, MIT). However no data is available online ( It is therefore impossible to know exactly - at this stage - how income evolved over the century.
9. See Claude Alasseur, La Comédie-Française au XVIIIe siècle. Etude économique. (Paris/La Haye: Mouton, 1967).
10. It was the same at the Académie Royale de musique, especially when dancers performed at Versailles or Fontainebleau (court entertainments). Cf. Denis Papillon de la Ferté, Journal de Papillon de La Ferté, intendant et contrôleur de l’argenterie, menus-plaisirs et affaires de la chambre du roi (1756-1780). (Paris: P. Ollendorff, 1887); Journal des Menus-Plaisirs du roi (1756-1780). (Paris: Paleo, 2002).
11. Example of a trade card [BmCF (2 AC 17)]:
Rue du sépulcre, faubourg Saint-Germain, du côté de
La grande rue Taranne
ODIE, Artiste en Fleur & Décorateurs des Menus-Plaisirs du Roi & des Enfans de France, sous le bon plaisir du Roi ; vend toutes sortes de Fleur artificielles pour les Ajustemens des Dames, & Bouquets d’Eglises. Il tient Magasin d’Arbres de toutes especes ; Guirlandes & Décorations pour les Fruits & Bals, Assiettes montées de toutes especes ; fabrique les Cartons & Papiers découpés pour les Desserts, & donne à loyer ; le tout à juste prix.
12. Féeries d’opéra : décors, machines et costumes en France (1645-1765).( Paris: éditions du Patrimoine, 1997); L’Opéra à Paris au temps de Louis XIV : histoire d’un théâtre (Paris: Desjonquères, 1992); See also: Alain Bouysse, Le Costume à l’Académie royale de musique 1780-1787. PhD: Paris-Sorbonne, 1988.
13. Ballets pour Louis XIII. Danse et politique a la cour de France. (Toulouse: SLC/Champion, 2011); Ebats et Débats dans la comédie-ballet de Molière. (Biblio 17/Gunter Narr, 2007).
14. La Danse au temps de l’Opéra-Ballet (PhD diss., University of Panthéon-Sorbonne, 1983).
15. Molière et ses comédies-ballets. (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2006).
16. The iconography on ballets at the Académie royale de music or for court entertainments is available at the Bibliothèque Nationale de l’Opéra, the Archives Nationales (series O1), the Stockholm Theatre Museum as stated by Jérôme de la Gorce.
17. ‘Défaites-vous de ces perruques énormes, et de ces coiffures gigantesques, qui font perdre à la tête les justes proportions qu’elle doit avoir avec le corps ; secouez l’usage de ces paniers raides et guindés qui privent l’exécution de ses charmes, qui défigurent l’élégance des attitudes, et qui effacent la beauté des contours que le buste doit avoir dans ses différentes positions.’ (Lettres sur la danse et sur les ballets, (Lyon: Delaroche, 1760), 55-56). See: Edward Nye, Mime, Music, and Drama on the Eighteenth-Century Stage. C.U.P., 2011.
18. E.g. Ponteuil’s outfit in Le Glorieux in 1773. Supplier: Deplan. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 7 November 1773. The Comédie-Française used to pay for washing, laundering (five shirts from Italy, 3 liv.), dry cleaning, mending clothes.
19. It appears that he would subcontract orders or works to other suppliers from his own network such as feather workers - plumassiers - or belt makers. See BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: January 1769.
20. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 2 February 1767. ‘Pour la façon treillis et toile à chaque rosette 1 liv.4 sols; Façon aussi pour les colliers.’
21. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 2 July 1759. ‘Pour la façon du turban et le carton 4 ; Pour le balet de Monsieur Allard façon de deux bonnets comiques dans le goût de bouffon et le carton pour lui et Mlle sa sœur 14.’
22. Jennifer M. Jones, Sexing La Mode: Gender, Fashion and Commercial Culture in Old Regime France (Oxford/New York: Berg, 2004), xvii. See also Clare Haru Crowston, Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France, 1675-1791. (Duke: Duke University Press, 2001).
23. E.g.: ‘Angleterre bleue, Italie bleu, Italie paille, Chair, Italie Carmélite, Angleterre girofle, Italie vert foncé, Angleterre noisette, Satin noisette, lilas, noir, Angleterre cerise, bleu leger, Velours pourpre, Italie violet’; ‘Satin violet fin, vert, aurore, bleu, cramoisi fin, vert, aurore, citron, bleu’ (BmCF, 2 AC 17, May 1786 and 1788).
24. Merchants would include in their trade cards information about the country of origin:
Au Duc de Bourbon, rue du Roule, la première boutique à gauche, en entrant par la rue Saint Honoré.
ROUGEAULT, Marchand Drapier,
Neveu & Successeur de M. CURMER-NEILSON
Tient Magasin de toutes sortes de Draperies & Soieries.
A un assortiment très-considérable de beaux Velours de coton d’Angleterre 1 Rouen, Draps de vigogne & Castorines ; Ratines de Hollande & de Vanrobais, Pluches de soir d’Angleterre & de Lyon ; Cazimir, etc.
Les Etoffes nouvelles & étrangere, pour Fracs, Gilets du matin & Habits d’Amazones.
25. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 23 November 1769.
26. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 29 July 1763.
27. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 5 octobre 1766.
28. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 22 December 1770
29. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 22 December 1764; 24 May 1767; 25 October 1768; 2 June 1776 (36 ells were striped for a total amount of 108 liv.).
Mémoire de peinture sur etofes faite par moy Rocquet imprimeur des menus-plaisirs du roy pour messieurs les comédiens françois sous les ordres de monsieur Pontus en datte du 22 septembre 1764
Avoir fait teindre et lustrer calandrer 3 aunes de tafetas jaune en pau de tigre et a raison de 16 sols par aune Deboursez fait pour ce 2.8
Plus avoir pinte en pau de tigre les 3 aune de tafetas cy-deus a raison de 3 livres l’aune pour ce 9
Totalle 11.8
Modéré à la somme de 9 livres le 22 décembre 1764
30. BmCF, 2 AC 17, Monvoisin, bill: 22-11-1769
32. Inventory of the Théâtre-Français : « Un petit doliman en Indienne à grands ramages ». Théâtre de la République : « Un déshabillé d’indienne » ; « Une robe de chambre et sa veste en damas bleu et blanc doublée de taffetas bleu » ; « Une robe de chambre en satin broché bleu et blanc, une autre d’indienne toute deux doublées en taffetas blanc, une autre idem en ras-de-castor vert et rouge doublée de taffetas vert » ; « Deux manteaux en indienne bleue à fleurs ».
33. AN, 1782 Inventory F17 25: ‘Un habit d’amour, corsage et manche de taffetas chair, tonnelet de taffetas imprimés le tout galonné de gaze et fleurs’.
34. Ibid., ‘2 vieux habits d’esclaves de satin, pourpoint et culottes de satin bleu.’
35. Comédie-Française et Italienne, Mémoires divers, AN, O1 845, mémoire n°19.
36. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 14 April 1779, Mémoire des ouvrages faits et fournis à mademoiselle Vanoble par les ordres de Madame Drouin et Vestris par moi Saint Ouën.
37. Ervin Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Anchor: 1959.
38. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 25 November 1767.
39. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 06 November 1768.
40. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 12 April 1774. ‘14 coliers roses, 14 bleu, 14 colliers sérieux de glacé d’argent, 14 colliers couleur de chair, 14 cravates de mousseline garnies de dentelles, 14 colliers de taffetas noir avec les rubans , 12 fraises de gaze brochée, 2 fraises de blonde une pour M. Deshaies et l’autre pour M. Desnoyers, 12 mouchoirs de soie, 2 plus petits, 7 au de taffetas d’Italie couleur de chair pour les colliers, chemises et serre-tête, 14 cartons, 84 au de padoue pour nouer les colliers et les rosettes, 3 douzaines de lacets, 7 au de toile rose, 4 aunes de treillis blanc, 1 marc 1/é de paillettes d’argent pour garnir les 14 colliers sérieux, 144 rosettes de toutes les couleurs.’ ; ‘Bourgeois gentilhomme : gants blanc (1.4), gant couleur de chair (1.4), 4 paires de gants noirs (2.5 > 9)’.
41. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 1st May 1772.
42. It must be stressed here that this taste existed already in the c17 and was therefore not totally new.
43. Cf. Ashmolean Museaum, Douce collection, P°138, costumes of all nations.
44. Archives Nationales, Inventory 1782, F17 25.
45. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 28 September 1764.
46. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 2 May 1777.
47. See the Frenchmag series on Daily Life at the Playhouse.
48. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 31 May 1771.
49. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 24 October 1765. ‘Raccomodés douze vieux carquois tout brisés, les redresser mettre des bouchons en dedans pour soutenir le corps mettre des pièces en carton en dessous les recoller en papier et rajuster et garnir en plumes a 1 pièce fait 12.’
50. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 24 October 1765. ‘six arcs neufs 12; et six carquois neufs en papier brun 12; Fournies dix-huit flèches neuves 4.10.’ Bill : 1753. ‘pour le ballet des indiens a la comedie françoise le mois de mars dernier 1754 cinq arcs de bois avec leurs cordes qui fait a 2 livres pièce fait 10 liv.’
51. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 1764. ‘Dans le courant du mois s’août de l’année 1763 avoir faites et fourni un casque uni de ver un bouclier une cuirasse, un foudre de jupiter et un caducée de Mercure a raison de quinze livres le casque quinze livres la cuirasse quinze livres le caducée cinq livres le tout en carton renforcé et pour faites à 60 livres selon les prix du Sr Desrues cy 60.’
52. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 16 January 1774.
53. Idem.
54. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 1st May 1772. ‘Serre-têtes doublés par de la toile rose ; 89 aunes de pendants pour les 34 rosettes de cheveux 34 colliers et les 17 serre-têtes’.
55. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 16 August 1762; 13 March 1763 and 9 June 1963.
‘Douze chapeaux de laine pour Mrs les Danseurs bordé d’un galon de laine avec les cocardes étoupes de laine garnie trois versants’ (1762)’; ‘Deux chapeaux dits anglais bordé d’un bord d’argent faux; Chapeau de matelot gris; Deux autres chapeaux de matelot noir; Chapeau hollandais’; ‘Un chapeau gris pour le ballet des trois cousines pour monsieur Dauberval ; Pour avoir accommodé 10 chapeaux gris avoir mis des coiffes neuves; Du 3 juillet pour 2 autres chapeaux anglais bordés de galon d’argent’.
56. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 27 December 1756.
57. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 5 March 1764. Fourni pour le Bourgeois gentilhomme par Lecuyer Panacher du Roy: Six danseurs du ballet, six bouquets à quatre branches de plumes de plumes blanches chaque faisant vingt-quatre pplumes du prix au juste 48 ; Premier danseur vue coiffure de six branches de plumes blanche et aigrette noire, 20; Un bouquet de trois plumes rouge et aigrette noire 6; Deux aigrettes blanches garni de plumes noire pour Polonais et Polonaise 8; Un bouquet de trois plumes rouge jaune et noire pour un suisse 5; Une aigrette de polichinelle 13. Total: 87.15. Payé 80 le 28 mars 1764.
58. See François Moureau, Le Goût italien dans la France rocaille. Théâtre, musique, peinture (v. 1680-1750).( Paris: PUPS, 2011).
59. E.g. BmCF, 2 AC 17, bill: 14 April 1760. ‘3 douzaines de roses ; 2 grosses de fleurs ; 2 grosdes de feuilles ; 1 grose de fleurs ; 18 fleurs ; 5 grosses de fleurs ; 6 grosses de feuilles ; 2 douzaines de roses ; 12 douzaines de roses ; 2 grose de fleurs à 3’.
60. BmCF: Mémoires de Paul Brunetti, 1756.
61. Ibidem, 1760. ‘Trois orangers portant fruits et fleurs dans des caisses vertes avec des fleurs de parterre au bas des caisses. 18 ; Quatre hyphes en charmille avec beaucoup de fleurs au bas. 24 ; Une fontaine avec un terrain de fleurs. 6’.
62. Ibid., 1764-1765. ‘Quatre sièges de 4 et ½ de long en parterre de fleurs’.
63. Ibid., 1766-1767. ‘Une statue de l’amour avec un piédestal et degrés. 24 ; Deux orangers et quatre ifs avec des fleurs repeints. 36 ; Deux couches de laitues. 12 ; Quatre terrains de fleurs. 12 ; Plusieurs bottes de rave et autres légumes. 9’.
64. Finally, extra workers were essential. In 1769, Pontus sent an invoice concerning temporary workers and extra expenses. He wrote: “Ordered by Dauberval to hire additional skilled workers to work urgently on Le Magnifique’s ballet [by Rochon de Chabannes]; hired consequently 5 workers from Thursday to Saturday, namely 3 days at 2 liv. per day, thus 30 liv.; Plus for the Thursday night, 5 workers, 15 liv.; Plus 5 women over three days at 15 s. per day, thus 11 liv. 5 s.; plus for the night at 1 livre 2 s. 6 d., thus 5 liv. 12 s. 6 d .” Expenses could accelerate and increase suddenly depending on the timing. Women were paid much less than men (this will not be a surprise) but the rates were quite good. Moreover, wages show that prices did not go up between 1764 and 1769.
Bill: 2 December 1769.

Sabine Chaouche


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