Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue Memorial Lecture
The French Porcelain Society is delighted to host the annual Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue Memorial Lecture with professor Meredith Martin, who will tell us about the fascinating story behind an ‘exotic’ fairy-tale ballet written by the comte de Caylus, and how thanks to her collaboration with the organization Final Bow for Yellowface, the ballet has been reinterpreted for contemporary audiences. We hope you can join us!
Please note this lecture will happen at 17:00 PM BST
Time: Sunday, 12 June 2022, 17:00-18:00PM London, UK (BST)
Members will receive an email invitation with instructions on how to join the online lecture. If you want to join, please contact us for more details on FPSenquiries@gmail.com.
Reimagining the Ballet des Porcelaines: Magic, Desire, and Exotic Entanglement
In 1739 at a château belonging to the comte de Morville outside of Paris, a group of French elites staged a ballet pantomime known as the Ballet des Porcelaines. Written by the comte de Caylus, with music by Nicolas-Racot de Grandval, it tells the story of a prince searching for his lover on an island ruled by a Chinese sorcerer, who turns trespassers into porcelain. On the one hand an Orientalist fairy tale, the ballet is also an allegory for the European desire to know and possess the secrets of porcelain manufacture. Although it would inspire later ballets featuring sleeping beauties and porcelain princesses, the Ballet des Porcelaines is virtually unknown and has not been performed in nearly three hundred years. Furthermore, no sets, costumes, or choreography for the original production survive.
Art history professor Meredith Martin, together with Phil Chan, a choreographer and co-founder of the organization Final Bow for Yellowface, have revived this lost gem and updated the ballet for contemporary audiences. By reimagining the production with a team of artists of mostly Asian descent, they aim to consider the relevance of historical dance for the present and to communicate the magic and mystery that porcelain held in the past. This talk will consider the origins of the project and the process of reimagining the ballet, and will explore its original historical context. It will also describe the different venues in which it is being performed, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Waddesdon Manor and Brighton Royal Pavilion in the UK; and the Museo di Capodimonte and Palazzo Grassi in Italy.
Image above: Harriet Jung, costume design for The Princess, Ballet des Porcelaines, 2021.