Mercure Galant – Messenger of the Past: Mascarade in Marly 1700

It is impossible to speak about Louis XIV’s feast without mentioning great & mysterious Divertissements held in Marly. The French Revolution destroyed this little gem built near Versailles, but the spirit & grandeur of events taken place there would remain in the historic memory for ever.

Here is an abstract from the Mercure Galant telling about the Mascarade of 1700:                ” January 7 there was a bal in Marly, started with a divertissement, mixing Music & Dances, titled ” The King of the Chinese”. This King was carried in a Palanquin, & accompanied by about thirty Chinese, singing Musicians & those who played musical instruments. Siers des Moulins from l’Opera enjoyed much performing a grotesque Dance, representing a Pagoda.                                                                                                                               Yet in Marly the next day there was the same divertissement & then a Bal. Seigneurs & Dames du Bal were all masked.                                                                                                               On Thursday 21 of the same month there was a bal in Marly & all the Danseurs & Danseuses appeared masked in rich garments. Madame la Duchesse de Bourgogne represented Goddess Flora, & Mesdames les Duchesses de Villeroy & de Sully…were Nymphes of her suite. The garment of Madame la Duchess de Bourgogne was rich & elegant, & those of Nymphs of her suite were of the same taste…                                                       As soon as all the Assembly gathered together, a Mascarade, having a title ‘The Amazons’, began. A Timpanist Moor, riding a Camel, was ahead, singing Amazons followed him, then Sarmatians & Schythians with their Subjects marched, adding more entertainment. They were proceeded with a fight of Gladiators & Vaulters, riding a wooden horse. There were some Dances as well. A Ball started afterwards & lasted until one o’clock in the morning…”

Vive le Roy! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Maria KethuProfumo

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Mercure Galant-Messenger of the Past-Carnival 1683

Mercure Galant published plenty of information about Venice’s Carnivals every year. However those arranged at the Court were no less solemn, magnificent & entertaining.

Here is an abstract about Carnival 1683 took place at Versailles:

“…I pass to Divertissements that at the same time had the greatest & the most brilliant Court of Europe. When Souvereign works without rest, Courtiers & all the Subjects can fully dedicate themselves to entertainment. That is what is going on all the Winter in Versailles. Every soirée of the week is marked with different pleasures…The entrance (to Bals) was allowed only im Masks, & only few People dared to appear undisguised unless they were not of a distinguished rank. As these disguises were made mostly for entertainment than for displaying a false magnificence, they matched the Court perfectly and there was no need in ordinary garments…This year one had to mask under  pleasant garments, demonstrating the invention, the genius & the spirit of those who wore them & who made them. But they did even more. In the past when people disguised to go to a Bal, they did not bother to return & this year the majority made themselves to go to change Garments from eight to two times. Somebody regards this as a grotesque that does not have a name, because it is no more than a result of the imagination of their Inventors.        …Monseigneur de Dauphin (Louis XIV’s son) changed from eight to two times every evening and Mr Berrin had to demonstrate all his genius to dress him & all his vigilance to do it fast, as there was little time from one Bal to another. As this Prince did not want to be recognized there was no exact Personage he invented to disguise himself, & very often nobody was able to guess if the one they beheld in the Mask was tall or short, portly or thin. Sometimes he wore double Masks or Wax Masks, put perfectly on the first Mask, and when it was time to unmask, ones believed that they saw a true faced, deceiving everybody…”

Vive le Roy! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Maria KethuProfumo

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Mercure Galant – Messenger of the Past: Feast in S. Cloud

As the 17th century France was already a very enlightened society, it had its own press as well. Besides the famous “La Gazette” established yet by Cardinal de Richelieu, which published mostly political news, there was the “Mercure Galant”, an amazing edition, writing about various sorts of things: news, Court life, fashions, marriages, deaths & gossips. As well it published poems, stories, riddles and other intellectual works to entertain its readers. A curious fact: the magazine published its articles in French, Italian & Spanish, as all these three languages were much in use in the cultural environment of the epoch, while Louis XIV knew Italian & was able to speak a bit of Spanish.

Here is a little abstract from the October 1678 edition, narrating about a diverissement in S. Cloud:

“The King made the decision to spend some days in S. Cloud before leaving for Fontainbleau. Monsieur (Louis’s brother), who had given orders concerning lodging of the whole Court, returned there on the 6th of this Month to see if everything had been executed well. He visited the Appartements  and couldn’t help praising Sr. Billon’s precision, to whom the supervision of this wonderful House had been provided. Then His Highness proceeded to the Gallery, which he did not see after it had been completed & furnished. It made him so satisfied that he longed for the arrival of Their Majesties (The King & the Queen). They arrived on the 10th in the Royal Carriage together with Monseignor le Daupin, Mademoiselle & Madame la Comtesse de Bethune. Other Carriages were unable to come in time because of bad roads. After having admired Artworks of the famous Mr. Mignard, who made the Gallery of S. Cloud one of the most beautiful in Europe, (I will make a special article on this topic next time), they played cards several times until the hour of Supper, that was worthy of the King’s magnificence.

There was an oval Table with twenty five Couverts (a ready dish set for 1 person). As it was rather large & as the Officers of the Table couldn’t put plates in the middle, they filled it with flowers every dish change & did it in such a proper, elegant & pompous manner that one could hardly design all this beauty. The Service of Meat Appetizers consisted of fourteen big dishes, forming a train. At the same time there were twenty-four little plates, served straight to Couverts. Fruits corresponded to the Occasion. … Figures made from flowers changed every Meal. Sometimes they were put on a golden plaited Machine, a wonderful invention, sometimes in silver Baskets as well as in Vases or in Boxes, made from the same material, and sometimes they were mixed between each other. … During all other days there was a Bal every evening before the Supper in a neuf Salon situated near the Gallery. Everything was well-arranged & the Palace seemed to have never been so spacious for dancing & for so great Society. … The bad weather was a reason why they strolled little in charming gardens of S. Cloud, but it did not prevent the King from departing for Versailles to check the construction works & to visit the Maison des Invalides…”

Vive le Roy! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Maria KethuProfumo


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Louis XIV Asks Riddles IV

Esteemed Readers,

midsummer time calls for some intellectual entertainment. So, His Majesty offers you another 17th century riddle…rather romantic and so much allegoric! Good luck!

Without consuming hearts we make them burn. We are torches and mirrors of the soul, whose secret thoughts are expressed though our flames. And in our silence we are heard.

The Riddle Solution made by the author:

Where the brightest torches one can behold? Who are these famous authors of pleasures & pains? Who are suns & fountains able to melt fires & waters?

REPLY to the riddle posted on May 23, 2018: DEW-TEARS.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Maria KethuProfumo

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Midsummer Night under a veil of Grand Divertissement Royal (1668)

Another magnificent festivity written in history was the Grand Divertissement Royal (1668). It was dedicated to success in the War of Devolution (1667-1668) and to the first capture of Franche-Compté, an important strategic goal in all the French wars of that period. This celebration was especially interesting as it was mainly arranged in just made Versailles gardens. The Bosquet of the E’toile was the center, reminding of the fact that the Sun was a star too, spreading its warm beams all over the world. First Versailles gardens were extremely impressive, decorated with fresh cut statues, glitter with bronze, cheerful sounds of just opened fountains and veiled with a bewitching blend of blossoming plants. (The celebration took place on the 18th of July).

As always our main maitres  of art, Jean-Baptiste Lully & Moliére, prepared a set of amazing entertainments, including dancing and a ballet-comedy named “George Dandin ou le Mari Confondu”/”George Dandin or the Confounded Husband“about an arrogant rich peasant who got married with a noble lady . The Court liked the comedy very much, while the name George Dandin became common.

In the libretto printed by Robert Ballard (1668) Moliére declares: “Translating from the language of Gods to the language of Men, the KING is a great King in all & we don’t see any reason why his glory must be reduced by some qualities lowering him to the level of Men…this is a King from all point of view: no work humiliates him; no activity deforms him; he is always himself and so he is recognized everywhere…”

These days the whole Fairy world is celebrating the Solstice. And in Versailles the Queen Fairy Versalia & the King Fairy Apollonium remember the great times of Louis XIV,  whirling among enigmatic scents of herbs & trees, singing under night sounds of waters & returning back to the world the dazzling recollection of those mysterious days. For the true beauty & art will always be themselves, as they reign the Universe we stay into.

Vive le Roy! Happy Solstice! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Maria KethuProfumo 

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Les Plaisirs de L’Ile Enchantée – Time of Miracles

Louis XIV arranged plenty of great feasts. In fact, each one was a true gem, blending entertainment, art, music with some drops of magic. But celebrations of 1664 named ‘Les Plaisirs de L’Ile Enchantée’ entered the history. Maybe because they were first ones arranged in Versailles, which at the time was only taking its shape. Maybe because the king & his court were so young & bold. Maybe because Jean-Baptiste Lully & Molière’s genii only appeared in the artistic Heaven of Apollo. In any case, there is something completely bewitching in these celebrations, some mystery covered under a thick veil of time.

The feasts took place in Versailles (7-13 May, 1664). Officially they were dedicated to the Queen Maria-Theresa of Spain, (Louis XIV’s wife…well as a king he had to have one), but in fact, to Mademoiselle de La Valliere, Louis’s love of that time. The King and the Court arrived at Versailles and enjoy various sorts of entertainments: carrousel, course de bague, jousting, theater, ballet, fireworks, strolling, lottery, etc.

The palace building and just made gardens were turned into Alcina’s palace, where the main theatric performances took place. The feasts started with staging a piece of Orlando Furioso by Ludovico AriostoThe king played Ruggiero’s part. (A curious discovery I have made: Orlando Furioso was very popular in the 17th century France, though no complete translation was made. I suppose that it was also linked with close Italian-French intercommunication, in the artistic field as well.)

Molière presented the following comedies: La Princess d’E’lide, LesFâcheux,  Le Mariage Forcé, Tartuffe (3acts).The Queen-Mother, Anne of Austria, resented the last comedy as it revealed a hypocritic nature of churchmen and she even told His Majesty to forbid it. Louis obeyed…but not for long. Some years later the comedy was staged already in 5 acts and it had a great success.

Animals also participated in these magnificent divertissements. Besides horses, parrots (as I suppose), there were bears, an elephant, and a camel.

Times passes, epochs change and a magic of ‘Les Plaisirs de L’ile Enchantée’ will remain, as they depict perfectly the one they were made for: Nec Pluribus Impar/Not equal to many.

Vive le Roy! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Maria KethuProfumo

PS. Archive documents: Philidor L’aisné 1664, Robert Ballard, Paris, 1664.


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Ballet de la Nuit in words

Besides rare gems of choreography & music, ballets of Louis XIV’s time were distinguished with sophisticated texts, costumes & special effects, including movable mechanisms, fire-works and amazing stage scenery. I have translated some pieces of a monologue recited by His Majesty in the first part of the ballet. It was his first appearing on the stage and as the ballet was dedicated to the Night, he performed a part of the Hour, the First Hour of the day. I hope you will admire this passionate & very wise allegory too:

Ballet de la Nuit, LE ROY, represant une Heure:

  • Here is the most fascinating Hour & on all the clock faces
  • It is the First above all the ranks,
  • While it links in itself the same circle of twelve,
  • And over them it is led to shine,
  • It is similar to the Fist Hour of the day, which is the boldest,
  • And sounds the best of all.
  • And this is also the Hour of everybody where all the Virtues
  • And Graces sparkle more.
  • It always moves forward and never back,
  • And each of these moments are made to be remembered,
  • It disperses so much light that it would be foolish
  • To ask ‘what is the time?’…
  • This Hour is precious and it must be glorified,
  • That is a care of a good housekeeping,
  • It is certainly the most utile of all,
  • And it is told, in fact, every day,
  • When they say it’s time to make fortune.
  • That is the right Hour at the Court.

Vive le Roy! 🙂

Maria KethuProfumo

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