Engraved print of a court ballet

Engraved print of a court ballet

This print shows a court ballet performed before Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, in Vlasislav Hall, Prague Castle in 1617. Spending vast sums on such lavish, ephemeral spectacles was quite usual in 16th and 17th century Europe. Their purpose was often to impress visiting dignitaries and present a positive image of a ruler and his court. They included vast processions, dances, sung episodes and acted interludes, all sumptuously costumed with elaborate coaches and chariots and stage effects. From these spectacles evolved ballet and opera. In this production, the dancers form geometric patterns on the floor of the theatre before what we would now think of as the proscenium arch, which is 'designed' as a rocky archway. It helps to give the perspective illusion to the scenery behind it, as well as helping to mask the ropes, pulleys and counterweights that worked the cloud machine and the god descending in his chariot.