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The Toilet of Venus, Léandre and Hero. Performed before the King, on the theatre of the Petits appartemens, at Versailles, on February 25th 1750. Words by Mr Laujon. Music by Mr de La Garde. S.l.n.d. Manuscript in-folio (350 x 255 mm), one title leaf, 68 pages for the Toilette de Vénus, and 68 pages for Léandre et Hero, red morocco, large gilt lace with small irons, coat of arms in the centre, pieces of arms in the corners, ornamented spine, olive green title and tomaison pieces, repeated pieces of arms, inner scroll, gilt paper lining and end-papers with flowers and birds motifs, gilt edges (18th century binding).
Superb and precious manuscript carefully copied for the duc de La Vallière (1708-1780), director of Madame de Pompadour's theatre at the Château de Versailles.
These two lyrical works were specially written for the society theatre instituted in Versailles by the Marquise de Pompadour.
First set up in 1747 in a small gallery of the château, this theatre, known as the Petits Appartements (or Petits Cabinets), was then moved in November 1748 to the Ambassadeurs' staircase: it was here, on 25 February 1750, that these two plays were performed to a libretto by Pierre Laujon and music by La Garde. The marquise, whose taste and talent for the dramatic art are well known, performed the role of Venus, then that of Hero, priestess of the temple of Aphrodite, in the company of her troupe of friends.
Sumptuous binding in morocco with lace bearing the arms and coat of arms of Louis-César de La Baume Le Blanc, Duc de La Vallière.
It is attributable to one of the great workshops of the time equipped to gild bindings of this format: Douceur, Dubuisson or Padeloup. Anthony Hobson, who reproduced it in French and Italian Collectors and their Bindings (1953), attributes the irons to Padeloup.
The Duc de La Vallière had been appointed director of the Théâtre des Petits Appartements and was part of the troupe of actors created by the Marquise de Pompadour, bringing together various members of the royal entourage: the Duc de Chartres, the Duc d'Ayen (Louis de Noailles), the Duc de Nivernois, the Marquis de Courtanvaux, the Marquis d'Entraigues, the Duchess de Brancas, etc. He played one of the roles for the Théâtre des Petits Appartements in Paris. In particular, he played one of the roles in Tartuffe, a play by Molière which was chosen for the inauguration of the theatre in January 1747 (cf. Adolphe Jullien, La Comédie à la cour. Les théâtres de société royale pendant le siècle dernier, 1885).
His interest in the theatre went beyond this private setting and led him to publish a few years later two important bibliographical dictionaries on the subject: Ballets, opéra et autres ouvrages lyriques (1760) and Bibliothèque du théâtre françois (1768).
It should be noted that this enlightened bibliophile also possessed other manuscripts, "properly written", of plays composed for the Petits Appartements.
From the libraries of La Vallière (1783, no. 3527), Count of Bearn, and John Roland Abbey (III, 1967, no. 1968).
See reproduction on page 19 and on page 2 of the cover.
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