2011 | 60 | 1-2(237-238) | 5-44
Article title

Vestiti di conserto, maschare di cera. Kostiumy baletowe na dworze Wladyslawa IV Wazy

Title variants
Vestiti di conserto, maschare di cera. Ballet costumes at the royal courth of Vladislaus IV Vasa
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Almost throughout the whole reign of Vladislaus IV (1632-1648), the monarch kept a court ballet ensemble, which was a Polish counterpart of the French ballet de cour or the court masque of the Stuarts. Beside ballets as such, various dances (of Furies, amazons, gladiators, nymphs and satyrs) served as entertaining additions to opera and commedia dell'arte performances, as well as tourneys. The king supervised the process of making costumes (he personally chose fabric samples!), which were devised by the general stage designer and engineer, Agostino Locci the Elder, and had been on occasion inspired by Italian prints provided by the monarch himself. Rich experience in these matters gained by Vladislaus at the court of his father (for instance, on 7 September 1619, he was the leading dancer in a ballet with Turkish youths) was greatly expanded during his famous Grand Tour of 1624-1625, when he commissioned drawings to be made of dancing outfits. Meant for court spectacles which blurred the boundaries between dancers and their viewers and had the characteristics of both play and ritual, the ballet costume combined the qualities of a court uniform, dancing outfit and theatrical costume. The author attempts to indicate the features that were characteristic of an aristocrat's dancing dress and a professional dancer's costume - as perceived in groups and individually, statically and kinetically. The author also explains the principles of their uniformity (for the costumes en suite, in conserto) and emblematic coding. Female costumes were more heavily influenced by current fashion than the male ones. Regardless of various historicisms and costumes alla polacca, the dancers' dresses were fashioned after what was in vogue on the Seine, as the French fashion was favoured by the king. Thus, in use were 'French' bonnets and such sleeves, tied with golden taffeta. The headdress included obligatory wigs, artificial flowers, high caps made of taffeta and silver lace, and diadems. Spectators were impressed by such witty concepts as ballerinas with two faces and four hands (the Carnival of 1643). Feathers, long veils, 'Spanish' coats, scarves, strings of pearls, hip-encircling 'bourrelets' and 'whale bones' shaped the dancers' silhouettes as was required. Royal register books testify that the court painter, Christian Melich painted costumes gold and silver. In accord with the idea of the lighting-machine costume, the textiles were predominantly white (the colour of Antiquity) and light in colour, often in the colour of flesh, symbolising heroic virtues. Armour was made of papier-mâché and elaborate golden trimmings. Various stylisations (negligentia diligens, etc.) did not exclude conventional or hybrid features to maintain the quality of fancy dress. The ritual emblematic spectacle required costumes to be rich in meaning, inspired by allegories in art and architectural pattern books. The professionals painted their faces and hands while the noblemen wore masks (made, for example, of wax) and gloves without which their public appearance as ballet dancers would not be acceptable. The act of taking them off was an elaborate ceremony of neoplatonic representation, aestheticization, transfiguration and ontological transformation, which was also of great importance in creating the monarch's image, with its ample use of all instruments of rhetorical persuasion and theatrical gesture language.
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Document type
  • Jacek Zukowski, Instytut Historii Sztuki, Wydzial Historyczny, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa, Poland
Document Type
Publication order reference
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