Gentleman in the lightning (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
In a portfolio acquired by the Duke of Aumale, son of King Louis-Philippe and founder of the Condé Museum in Chantilly, 23 exceptional drawings by Jacques Bellange (ca. 1575–1616) were found.
The latter immortalized the splendor of the Lorraine court at the start of the 17th century.
Lady with a collar (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
Who is Bellange?
Jacques Bellange, born in Bassigny around 1575 and died in 1616 in Nancy, was a painter and designer from Lorraine at the service of the ducal house.
His work documents the Duchy of Lorraine under the dukes Charles III (1543-1608) and his son, Henry II (1563–1624) during the period of prosperity known as the "Bon Temps" (Good Times), which preceded the Thirty Years War (1618–1648).
Lady with a handkerchief (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
In the Chantilly collection, the majority of Jacques Bellange's drawings illustrate the great celebrations of the marriage between Marguerite de Gonzague-Mantoue and Henri de Bar, future Henri II of Lorraine, in 1606.
Intriguing costumed characters are staged, embodying the extravagance of the 17th century court of Lorraine.
Gardener seen from the back, turning to the right (1613 - 1615) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
Many of Bellange's works, many of which adorned the walls of official buildings such as the Ducal Palace in Nancy, have been lost. The works preserved at the Condé Museum in Chantilly are all the more precious.
These drawings by Bellange are done in pen and ink and often colored with watercolor.
Lady looking in the mirror (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
The festivities of the marriage between Margaret Gonzaga-Mantua and Henry II included a ballet. This one began with the entry of a motorized charioton which 12 ladies were seated. Bellange worked on the decoration of this machine.
The large size of this lady suggests that it could represent Catherine (1573-1648), the sister of the groom and son of Charles III of Lorraine.
It is she who conceived the wedding ballet.
Lady with alérions (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
We can wonder if these drawings by Bellange were preparatory sketches for costumes he created, or documentations of parties.
This lady with allerions refers to a legendary bird represented on the coat of arms of Lorraine.
We can notice that her face appears unmasked in the reflection of her mirror.
Lady wearing a sun (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
Among the ladies represented in Bellange's drawings, one can wonder where Marguerite Gonzague-Mantoue is hiding.
This lady clothed with the sun and a diamond on her bust could well be the future bride.
We can admire his costume, meticulously decorated with pearls, which even embrace his forearms.
Page with blue mask (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
Pages and Musicians
In the French courts of the 17th century, music was omnipresent, as an element of entertainment but also as a political tool.
Thus, during court celebrations, such as those for the marriage of Margaret Gonzaga-Mantua and Henry II, there were many pages and musicians richly costumed, responsible for entertaining as well as expressing the power of the dukes.
Player of Cistre (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
During the dance of the twelve ladies, eight pages followed by troupes of costumed musicians were seen marching. They are described as "dressed in Turkish style", i.e., in oriental-inspired and highly ornamented costumes.
Here we see a figure playing the cittern, a plucked string instrument particularly popular in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
It seems Bellange represents Charles Bocquet, composer and lutenist at the court of Lorraine.
Knight of the eagle, executing the passage (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
A carousel followed the wedding of Henri II and Marguerite Gonzague-Mantoue, in 1606. It is a parade during which various riders indulge in various exercises, to prove their talent.
During this carousel, various fights on horseback had been organized.
The court of Lorraine was renowned for its equestrian practices. The horse in this drawing appears to be doing the complex riding gait known as passage..
Portrait of Louis de Guise, Sieur d'Ancerville, on horseback (Vers 1613) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
Characterized by their theatricality and large eyes, horses are Bellange's area of interest.
In this portrait of Louis de Guise, cousin and favorite of the Duke of Lorraine Henri II, it pays particular attention to the graceful attitude of its mount.
Amazon on horseback (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
This amazon costume on horseback evokes the fascination of warrior women, both those of antiquity and those of chivalry novels, at the court of Lorraine in the 17th century.
It is indeed a rider, wearing a bodice (a female garment) covered with fabric and leg protection made from blackened iron.
Gentleman in ancient costume (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
The Knights of Combat on Foot
A fight on foot took place after the carrousel. Lords of considerable rank participated. They wore masquerade costumes, designed to make people laugh and frightened.
These extremely fanciful antique costumes already existed during the festivals in Florence of the mid-16th century.
Gentleman holding a laurel wreath (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
The themes of the costumes and accessories of the knight are heterogeneous with mythological, oriental or antique inspirations.
They are representative of the ideals of the 17th century society, which was fascinated by what was distant in time and space.
This character, dressed in flames, holds up a crown, the reward for a race or a fight. In his right hand is an assegai, a throwing weapon.
The assegai is embellished with strings covered with powder that is lit with fire, which reinforces the extravagance of its appearance.
The Turkish archer (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
This archer dressed in a Turkish-inspired costume also demonstrates the curiosity of the French courts for oriental cultures as well as the richness of the costumes deployed in honor of the Duchy of Lorraine.
Galloping rider (1600 - 1606) by Jacques BellangeChâteau de Chantilly
The wealth and creativity of Jacques Bellange's drawings in the Condé Museum in Chantilly illustrate the French specialty in performing arts.
Indeed, these documentations of musicians', dancers', and riders' costumes show the decorative and performative prowess of the 17th century court of Lorraine.
These drawings, in addition to serving as historical evidence, would also inspire other artists such as Jean Berain (1640–1711) who created costumes for the court of King Louis XIV.
A virtual exhibition stemming from the exhibition "Fastes de Cour au XVIIe Siècle: Les Costumes de Bellange et Berain", organized at the Domaine de Chantilly, from May 13 to August 13, 2015. Curated by Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel, Director General of the Château de Versailles and Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros, Chief Curator of the Galliera City of Paris Fashion Museum.
The texts are inspired by those in the catalog of the exhibition "Fastes de Cour au XVIIe Siècle", by Paulette Choné, professor emeritus at the University of Burgundy and Jérôme de La Gorce, director of research at the CNRS. Co-published by Monelle Hayot and the Fondation pour la Sauvegarde et le Développement du Domaine de Chantilly (Foundation for the Preservation and Development of the Domaine de Chantilly), in 2015.
Virtual exhibition designed by Clara Voiry.
Images ©RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly
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