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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts > Italian Dance

On Stage and in the Ballroom: Styles of Preromantic Ballet

Gregorio Lambranzi, Nuova e curiosa scvola de' balli theatrali (New and Curious School of Theatrical Dancing).  2 volumes.  Engravings by Giovanni Giorgio Puschner.Nuremberg, 1716.  The images displayed are "Scaramouche and Lady" (Volume 1, no. 27) and an acrobatic number for four men (Volume 2, no. 48).  These extraordinary volumes underscore the influence of the commedia dell'arte and the acrobatic movement of the grotteschi on the development of eighteenth-century ballet.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Balletto per S. A. R. Il Sig. Principe di Galles Composto dal Sig. Bartolo Ganasetti L'anno 1729 Posto in Carta Dame Antonio Evangelista Maestro di Ballo in Bologna (Ballet for His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales Composed by Sig. Bartolo Ganasetti in the year 1729 [and] Put on Paper by me, Antonio Evangelista, Ballet Master in Bologna).  Folio in Feuillet notation, with music, 1729.  A Venetian by birth, Bartolomeo Ganasetti (also known as Bartolo or Bortolo Ganassetti or Ganascetti) was active in Central Italy in the 1740s and 1750s, staging ballets in operas by important composers of the day such as Johann Adolf Hasse and Christoph Willibald Gluck, and later working as an impresario.  Antonio Evangelista, who recorded the ballet, worked as a ballet master at the Collegio dei Nobili of Bologna between 1727 and 1734 and, like Ganasetti, was also Venetian.  The notation is in the Beauchamps-Feuillet system codified in France in the late seventeenth century and widely used throughout Europe, spreading to Northern Italy in the 1720s.  Because the system was quite elaborate, choreographers may well have relied on colleagues for recording their compositions.  Walter Toscanini Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

L'Amazzone (The Amazon)

Folio in Feuillet notation, with music, of a ballet entitled The Amazon [ca. 1725].  This score, recorded in the Beauchamps-Feuillet system of notation, is one of the rarest items in the Cia Fornaroli Collection.  Roughly contemporaneous with Antonio Evangelista's notation of Bartolo Ganasetti's balletto for the Prince of Wales and Gaetano Grossatesta's 1726 manuscript Balletti, it adds to our knowledge of the dances performed on the early eighteenth-century Italian stage.  Walter Toscanini Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Left:  engraving by Eugène Gervais after a painting by Nicolas Lancret, Paris, [185?].  Cia Fornaroli Collection.  Right:  print after an engraving by Hippolyte Pauquet, based on a 1730 portrait by Nicolas Lancret, [Paris, 1862].  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.  Born in Flanders, Camargo was a child prodigy, trained (like so many eighteenth-century dancers) by her father, a dancing master of Italian descent.  She made her debut at the Paris Opéra in 1726, and quickly established herself as a virtuoso.  She collected lovers as well as accolades, shortening her skirts a few inches above the ankle to reveal the sparkling footwork and effortless cabrioles and entrechats that became her signature as a ballerina.

Engraving, [Paris?, 174-?].  Wearing a typical mid-eighteenth-century dance costume, Anne Auretti was one of the most widely traveled ballerinas of the eighteenth century.  In the 1750s, with her husband, she appeared in Paris at the Opéra Comique, as part of a mostly Italian company that also performed in London and Vienna.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division. 

Teresa Fogliazzi (Angiolini) as Psyche

Engraving, [Vienna?, ca. 1758].  The member of a powerful family of Parma intellectuals who had settled in Milan, Teresa Fogliazzi was a much-admired ballerina and one of many Italian dancers who spent long periods in Vienna.  In 1754 she married her partner, the Florentine-born Gasparo Angiolini, who pioneered a major new form of ballet narrative and choreographed several of Gluck's "reform" operas, in which dance formed an integral part of the action.  This print, probably made in Vienna toward the end of Fogliazzi's performing career, highlights the charm that had once attracted the roving eye of Casanova, whose advances she rejected to marry her husband.  Gift of Walter Toscanini, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

La Guinguette (The Tavern)

Engraving by François Basan after a painting by Gabriel de Saint-Aubin, Paris, [ca. 1752].  La Guinguette, a pantomime-divertissement by the acclaimed choreographer Jean-Baptiste François De Hesse, exemplified the lighter fare performed at the Théâtre Italien (also known as the Comédie Italienne) in Paris during the mid-eighteenth century.  Staged in 1750, the piece was a village romp that combined storytelling, local color, and the popular subject matter associated with the "Italian players" who brought the traditions of the commedia dell'arte--the popular improvisational theater born in Italy during the Renaissance--to the French stage, while refining them to accommodate Gallic taste.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division. 

Jason et Médée:  Ballet Tragique (Jason and Medea:  Tragic Ballet)

Engraving published by John Boydell, after an etching and aquatint by Francesco Bartolozzi, possibly after Nathaniel Dance, London, 1781.  Choreographed by Gaetan Vestris after Jean-Georges Noverre's celebrated work, this "tragic ballet" featured Giovanna Baccelli (left) as Creusa, Vestris as Jason, and Adelaide Simonet as Medea.  Tall and handsome, Vestris was the undisputed star of the mid-eighteenth-century Paris Opéra and a brilliant exponent of the danse noble, although he began his career in Italy as a burlesque dancer.  Born Gaetano Vestri in Florence, he belonged to the first generation of one of the most important dance dynasties of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  In the 1760s he often danced in Stuttgart, appearing in many ballets by Jean-Georges Noverre, including Médée et Jason.  His son, Auguste, the offspring of a liaison with the ballerina Marie Allard, was an equally gifted dancer, a virtuoso unrivaled for the speed, daring, and elevation of his dancing.  A celebrated teacher, Auguste trained many outstanding figures of the Romantic ballet, including August Bournonville, Jules Perrot, and Marie Taglioni.  His son, Armand Vestris, also a dancer and choreographer, studied with his grandfather, Gaetan, but spent most of his professional life abroad.  (See Armand Vestris in Macbeth and Marie Taglioni elsewhere in this exhibition.)  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Giovanna Baccelli

Mezzotint engraving by John Jones after the painting by Thomas Gainsborough, London, 1784.  Venetian-born and blessed with exceptional lightness and charm, Baccelli was a favorite with English audiences of the 1770s and 1780s, and the bewitching mistress of John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset.  This image, based on a portrait commissioned by him from one of Britain's most distinguished artists, shows the ballerina in her costume for Les Amants surpris (The Surprised Lovers), a highly successful ballet produced at the King's Theatre, London, during the 1781-1782 season directed by Jean-Georges Noverre.  Frequently paired with Gaetan Vestris (as in Médée et Jason), Baccelli, who had made her London debut at the Haymarket Theatre in 1774, danced with success in France, Italy, and England.  In addition to Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, Baccelli was immortalized by the Italian artist Giovan Battista Locatelli, who sculpted her in the nude.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Representation of a Masquerade

Color engraving by Georg Balthasar Probst, [17--].  Masked balls, or masquerades, were a popular social pastime in the eighteenth century.  This unusually detailed image shows masked couples dancing in a spacious ballroom, accompanied by musicians playing in the double loft at left.  Harlequins and other commedia dell'arte figures in their distinctive costumes and masks move among the dancing couples.  Gift of Lillian Moore, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Polichinelle and Grotesque Dancers

Double lithograph by François Le Villain after drawings by Antoine Jean-Baptiste Thomas, from the album Un An à Rome (A Year in Rome), [Paris, 1823].  Although eighteenth-century Italian dancers practiced all dance genres, they were closely identified with the acrobatic dancers known as grotteschiGrotteschi specialized in character, comic, and "grotesque" roles and were known for their vigorous athleticism and technical virtuosity.  The image depicts acrobats performing tumbling stunts along with a masked Pulcinella, underscoring the continuing link between popular Italian movement traditions and the commedia dell'arte.  The woman balancing on nearly full pointe reminds us that dancers in popular as well as elite contexts explored the technique of pointework before it became central to the aesthetic of Romanticism.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Teresa Marzorati Monticini and Her Son Antonio

Teresa Marzorati Monticini and son
Teresa Marzorati Monticini
and son
Engraving by Gianantonio Zuliani from a painting and drawing by Giuseppe Cesari, Trieste, 1803.  Married to the dancer/choreographer Giovanni Monticini and the mother of Antonio Monticini, who staged several ballets for La Scala in the 1830s and 1840s, Teresa is depicted in contemporary Empire dress.  Important dancers often performed in Trieste on their way to and from engagements in Venice.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Amalia Brugnoli and Paolo Samengo in a Pas de Deux

Engraving, [London, ca. 1832].  Amalia Brugnoli and Paolo Samengo were among the many husband-and-wife teams that traveled throughout Europe in the early nineteenth century.  Daughter of the "grotesque" dancers Paolo and Giuseppa Brugnoli, Amalia trained at La Scala's newly establishedAcademy of Ballet.  She formed a partnership with Armand Vestris, and in his 1823 ballet La Fée et le Chevalier, staged in Vienna, she danced for the first time on full pointe (amazing, among others, the very young Marie Taglioni).  Returning to Italy, Brugnoli danced with Carlo Blasis, and in 1828, after a sojourn at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, she married the dancer and choreographer Paolo Samengo.  In 1832 they appeared together at the King's Theatre in London, where critics applauded the "unerring precision" of her pointwork.  Lillian Moore Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Ball Scene in Ottavio Pinelli, or Insult and Revenge, a Ballet by Paul Samengo

Color engraving by Zinke from a drawing by Johann Christian Schoeller, [Vienna, 1835?].  Born in Liguria to a family of tradesmen, Paolo Samengo trained with Louis Duport in Vienna in the early 1820s.  He made his debut as a choreographer in Naples, where he met his future wife, Amalia Brugnoli, then returned to Vienna.  Here, in 1827 at the Kärtnertor Theater, directed by Domenico Barbaja, he choreographed Ottavio Pinelli, with Brugnoli in the leading woman's part.  Brugnoli had been exploring the new technique of pointe for some time, but as this print makes clear, all four women in the pas de cinq are conversant with it.  During the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century close political and cultural ties existed between Vienna and the Italian states.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.