RABEL, Daniel
(b. 1578, Paris, d. 1637, Paris)

The Royal Ballet of the Dowager of Bilbao's Grand Ball

Pen and black ink, watercolour, 287 x 440 mm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

In the first half of the 17th century court ballet became an indispensable noble pastime, with Italy supplying ballet masters, musicians, and set designers, until the great period of Jean-Baptiste Lully. Biting satire was present in the masked balls and theatrical performances. No subject was sacrosanct, from social satire to seduction to politics. The height of grotesque caricature was perhaps attained by the variety of scenes and vulgarity of tone of The Royal Ballet of the Dowager of Bilbao's Grand Ball, Given by His Majesty in February 1626 in the Hall of the Louvre, then in the Paris Town Hall. Daniel Rabel's drawings, which have survived, give an idea of the farcical exoticism and mockery evoked through extravagant costumes and cacophonous hullabaloo, proving that buffoonery was not banned at court.

This drawing represents the entrance of the Cacique and his entourage.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 2 minutes):
Jean-Baptiste Lully: Gavotte from Phaéton