Engraving published in Les Plaisirs de L'Isle

Engraving published in Les Plaisirs de L'Isle

The ballet La Princesse d'Elide was part of a seven day fête held in May 1664 at the Palace of Versailles. The festivities celebrated the birth of a son to Louise de La Vallière, mistress of the French king, Louis XIV. Versailles had no theatre, so temporary stages were set up around the palace and in the gardens. Here the stage has been set up in the grounds with the stage and orchestra pit looking up the avenue of trees and hedges towards the palace. Actors are shown performing before the king (seated centre front) and the court. The engraving is titled Seconde Journée - Theatre fait dans la meme allée, sur lequel la Comédye et le Ballet de la Princesse d'Elide furent representez.

Such lavish celebrations helped impress foreign dignitaries and reinforced Louis' image as absolute ruler. Louis and his courtiers often took part and Louis' nickname, The Sun King, came from his performance as Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, in the Ballet de la Nuit in 1653.