Boxes at the theater

Boxes at the theater


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  • The effect of melodrama.

    BOILLY Louis Léopold (1761 - 1845)

  • A box, one day of free show.

    BOILLY Louis Léopold (1761 - 1845)

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Title: The effect of melodrama.

Author : BOILLY Louis Léopold (1761 - 1845)

Creation date : 1830

Date shown: 1830

Dimensions: Height 32 - Width 41

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Lambinet Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - P. Bernard

Picture reference: 96-017050 / Inv. 83.2.1

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - P. Bernard

To close

Title: A box, one day of free show.

Author : BOILLY Louis Léopold (1761 - 1845)

Creation date : 1830

Date shown: 1830

Dimensions: Height 33 - Width 41

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Lambinet Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - P. Bernard

Picture reference: 96DE17048 / Inv. 88.7.1

A box, one day of free spectacle.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - P. Bernard

Publication date: July 2005

Historical context

Appeared during the Revolution, melodrama conquered the popular scene and prevailed at the beginning of the XIXe century as a flagship genre. With parts like Victor or the Child of the Forest (1799), Coelina or the Child of the Mystery (1800) or The Woman with Two Husbands, R. C Guilbert de Pixérécourt created the archetype of the genre through Manichean characters, a constant recourse to emphasis, pathos, and the use of stage effects to emphasize dramatic intensity; the dialogues are bombastic and the staging does not shrink from any excess. In 1823, the famous actor Frédérick Lemaître, who can be seen as Pierre Brasseur in Children of paradise, revolutionizes the conception of melodrama by parodying the piece The Auberge des Adrets : traditional figures of virtue are no longer the only ones to arouse admiration; from now on the humble and the marginalized can acquire the stature of heroes like Robert Macaire, a highwayman, but above all a colorful baladin who is not afraid to make a mockery of social conventions. Even if this form of theater experienced a relative decline after the July Monarchy, in Paris, the Boulevard du Temple brings together many theaters specializing in the genre, which earned it the nickname of "boulevard du crime".

Image Analysis

Chronicles of Parisian life that take place in a theater box at the time of Louis-Philippe, these two small-format paintings were designed as a pendant. In The effect of melodrama, the scene is organized around a woman who has passed out, in reaction to the play being played in front of her. Everyone surrounds him, preoccupied, even scared like the child in the foreground. In A box, a day of free show, it's quite the opposite ; no concern but a hilarious interest in front of this weakness. The crowd crammed into the small space laughs and comments with laughter and stares at this woman who does many manners. The features are coarse, the faces reddened and grimacing. The show is no longer on the stage of the theater, but in the other box. The characters lean down, leave the painting and engage us in the spectacle of their show. The eye passes from one painting to another, from an average bourgeoisie painted in a "porcelain" material, with subtle color accords, to the description of a people treated in an almost caricatural way, in the manner of William Hogarth (1697-1764), using a faster and more fluid technique.

This gives us an idea of ​​the atmosphere that reigned in the theaters: a highly charged atmosphere, social events, exchanges between the spectators, interruptions and addresses to the actors, noisy manifestation of pleasure or disapproval of the play being performed. The audience expresses itself, the show takes place both in the hall and on the stage.

Interpretation

Despised by the elites, melodrama appears today as a precursor of the forms of cultural industries that emerged in the second half of the 19th century.e century. Boilly’s painting testifies to its immense success, which has declined in a multitude of genres according to the times: police melodrama, adventure, manners, but also patriotic melodrama in the years 1880-1890. According to Gérard Gengembre: “More than any other theatrical genre, melodrama has been able to reflect the challenges of the century and incorporate the representations and fantasies that the working classes could have of their condition and of other components of society. While he often practices conventional morality, he also knows how to convey socialist and humanitarian ideas. It was a dream school and a much more successful and effective form of communion through spectacle than romantic drama, which never succeeded in constituting the organic audience to which it aspired. The XIXe century can rightly be called the century of melodrama. "

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Bibliography

Gérard GENGEMBRE, Le Théâtre français au 19e siècle, Paris, A.Colin, 1999.Susan SIEGFRIED, The Art of Louis Léopold Boilly, New Haven-Londres, Yale University Press, 1995. Jean-Marie THOMASSEAU, Le Mélodrame, Paris, PUF , coll. "What do I know? », 1984.

To cite this article

Nathalie de LA PERRIÈRE-ALFSEN, "The boxes at the theater"


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