Sunday, March 31, 2019

Fiddle-de-diddledy dee ... two ladies!

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I like to have my first morning cups of green tea while I read the last night's tennis results. But at this time of year the tennis world gets a bit dreary, as the circuit gets glued down in Indian Wells and Miami, so, instead, I play the ebay game: identify a Victorian photo as I sip. Mrs Goodlake née Curwen was a fun one, but I thought today I would try for someone less 'important'. I picked two labelled ladies who looked as if they would do ...



The vendor of this very fine looking lady has her listed as Harriet M Tipper. I know Victorian handwriting can be a beast to decipher ...

The lady is in fact Miss Harriet Mary PEPPER and -- I've done it again! -- she is a descendant of a most noteworthy family. The Peppers of Ballygarth Castle, County Meath.  On the River Nanny, at Julianstown. The Peppers of Ballygarth fill more than a full column in Burke's Landed Gentry, which is hardly surprising since they had been there since 1660, producing the usual stock of Soldiers, EIC Men, vicars and children to carry on the family name .. I'll just stick to the more recent generations. Thomas Pepper, sometime MP for Kells, had eight sons and four daughters. Most of the sons were for some time in the East India service and army. The fifth son, Charles Hamden Pepper (1784-1848) has the longest entry in Burke:  Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 27th foot, sixteen years in Italy under Sir John Stuart, and in the Peninsula under the Duke of Wellington. And, of course, Ireland. His wife was Matilda Mary St George, by whom he had the regular run of children, of whom only two sons and two daughters survived. Eldest son Thomas St George Pepper was the heir of Ballygarth and Julianstown and succeeded to the arms and motto of that place on the death of his childless uncle. He lived there up to his death 21 July 1884. Charles (b 1 November 1845) also inherited a vast amount from Uncle George. The two girls, Harriet (b c 1841) and Matilda [Victoria Mary] (b Rathmines 28 June 1842) remained single, and seem to have spent their time between Ireland, Europe and the more splenditious hotels of London. In 1901 the three unwed siblings -- Charles is now a Colonel, commanding the 5th Leinsters -- can be seen at the Westminster Palace Hotel, in 1911 Matilda is missing ...


Harriet actually died in Wiesbaden 7 July 1913. I guess she was there for the waters. She left wills in Ireland in England, which seem to have left everything (24K GBP) to brother Charles. I see Charles taking the waters at Bath in 1927 ...


Let's pick someone who isn't in Burke or Debrett for number three. Here, this lady looks a bit uncomfortable in her Sunday best ...



Name. Lucy E G ??Henry?  Oh dear, three initials. Hmmm. No, its not Henry. Let's try Kerry.

Lucy Eliza Geils KENNY daughter of Thomas Geils Edward Gemmell Kenny and Charlotte Watson.  Oh, dear, four initials. Born 3 January 1856 or is it 1850 in ... oh no! India! I've picked another Indian Army family!  

Geils? Kenny? Geils of Geilston? Yes, they're linked with the Kennys and the Aylmers ... Aylmer is a middle name of half of the eight or nine children of TGEG and Charlotte [Aylmer] nee Wilson ...   look! 1856 marriage at Geilston of Courtenay Thomas William Aylmer Kenny Captain of the 88th Connaught Rangers to Georgina Edith Pauline Kenny daughter of the late Henry Kenny MNI. MNI? Madras Infantry?

Undoubtedly I've found the right family. Am I going to delve into the family history of TGEG? I think its probably enough to just say he's ... oh, goodness! that Courtenay Kenny is on Wikipedia! He emigrated to New Zealand and became a memorable person in Marlborough, just one province (and forty years!) from me! And wait a mo, Courtenay Crow Kenny and Mary née Geils are TGEG's parents. And the memorable Courtenay from Picton (1835-1905) is, therefore, Lucy Eliza's eldest brother! Well! I sure know how to pick 'em! 

I spot TGEG in India's Madras Staff Corps in 1839, and rising up the ranks Captain, Major, Colonel in the 2nd Madras European Light Infantry, while the ranks of his family rose as well. I guess the children were brought up in India. But in 1867 (21 January) the Colonel died at Cuddalore, Tami Nadu, Madras and the family split up. Daughter Amy married the local Reverend John Clough, daughter Alice married Mr Kirk, the chaplain at Aden, eldest brother headed for the green green grass of New Zealand, while the widowed Charlotte chose to go, like so many Indian Army widows, to the then elegant purlieus of Cheltenham, Glos. Which is how I found Lucy: for this photo was taken in Cheltenham.


In the 1871 census mother Charlotte with spinster daughters Charlotte and Lucy can be seen residing in Imperial Square, but some of the family stayed in India, where brother Aylmer died  aged 35. 

In 1881 Amy is home from England with children and sister Grace while husband continues spreading the Christian word in India. Clough became the vicar of Clifton-cum -something, Nottinghamshire where his proselytising days were done. Nine children, 4 servants. It was at Clifton vicarage that Lucy died in 1889 (14 January). She wrote a will, so I daresay her death was not sudden ... only a death-certificate would tell for sure. Clough was her executor. Mother had already gone, the previous year, sister Charlotte lived till 1913. Amy, much much longer ... Grace the longest of all.

Oh, the familytree makers say Lucy was born in 1856, which would make her 16 in this photo. 1850 does seem more likely ...

Well, goodnight, ladies. Been nice knowing you.











Coryphées et courtisanes (3)

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End of episode. For my next, I'll go back to the Le Corsaire B team: Mlles Cellier, Poussin, Troisvalets, Pierron, Villiers, Savel, Rousseau ...

An experienced brigade. I see in 1851 the four last-named already dancing prominently in the Ballet des Nations, and the whole six are featured in Aelia et Mysis in 1853.

Francine [Augustine] Cellier (1839; d Paris, February 1891) did not become a long-term pensionnaire of the Opéra. After some six years, aged only 20 ('très gracieuese, très jolie') , she gave up dancing for acting, studied at the Conservatoire where she took a first prize in comédie, moved to the Gymnase, and then the Théâtre du Vaudeville at the start of an honourable career in which her portrayal of Madame Pommeau in Les Lions pauvres was a highlight.
He greatest 'success', however, was her liaison with George Eugene Haussmann, Prefect of the Seine, the man immortalised by his 'clean up Paris' building campaign. Francine, noted for her intelligence as well as her grace and beauty, apparently put her money into bricks and mortar rather than diamonds.



Laure Poussin 'fille d'un valet de chambre de la grande maison'. I see what I suppose is she in 1851, in Zerline, in Aelia and Mysis in 1853, in Orfa and Marco Spada in 1857, in Sacountala in 1858Dupeuty marked her as 'très jolie, surtout du mérite'. However, he also noted that she didn't seem to be going forward. Actually, she went north. In 1859 she supported Ferraris at St Petersburg where she was marked as 'pas encore une grande danseuse mais promet beaucoup' ... in 1862 she was still there .. in 1867 she was mentioned as 'retired.

Elise Troisvalets, of the same class as Poussin, proved much more durable. 'Une jolie brune, for more than a decade, she was one of the most frequently seen soloists -- one of the 'big four' or the 'Qautre filles Aymon' -- on the Opéra stage in both ballets and opera ballets. I see her in 1853, in Aelia et Mysis, in Gemma, La Corsaire, Orfa, Marco Spada, as Pierette in Le Marché des Innocents, in the Gitanilla of Il Trovatore, in La Muette de Portici, Herculaneum, La Magicienne up to 1865, when she quit the company. She crossed to the Italiens, visited London to appear at the Italian opera in La Harem, but by 1867 she, like the rest of the 1850s team was listed as retired. So I guess she was not the Mlle Troisvalets who featured in the dances of Le Tour du Monde en 80 Jours at the Cirque in 1876. In 1893, Madame (!) Troisvalets was still listed in the Almanach des Artistes of the year. 70 rue, Château d'Eau. I think the Madame might have been honorific. Elise is listed in the Jolies Filles de Paris, and appears in the odd anecdote...





Elise Troisvalets and Alexandrine Simon

(?Clara) (?Caroline) Pierron began a little before  the two last named girls. I see her in already featured in Le Violon du diable and L'Enfant prodigue in 1850, as Euphèmie in Vert-Vert, and lastly in 1856, when she crossed the channel to feature at the Italian opera.
The reason I have a ? before her prénom is that I think it is an error which has become a 'fact'. She is only, to my knowledge, billed as 'Pierron' at the Opéra, often preceded in a list by 'Caroline' (comma). The 'Caroline' before the comma is, of course, our friend Caroline Lasciat. And just to muddle things further, there is a slightly younger Mlle Pierron, variously called Justine or Caroline (d 1924), who became a long-time dugazon and later character lady at the Opéra-Comique. However, the British press calls her 'Clara'. Or is that a comma job too? Anyway, it seems as if she might have stayed a while in Britain. In 1859-61, the Pyne and Harrison Opera at Covent Garden features 'Mlle Pierron' as second star danseuse....
There's a bit more work to do yet, sorting out 'Mlle Pierron'.

Adèle Villiers (Mme Villiers-Petit) was a much admired dancer, through twenty years on the Opéra stage. She started in the corps de ballet, by 1851 was getting featured moments (Zerline, Ballet des Nations, Le Rossignol, and within a few seasons was performing pas de deux and with the 'big four'. In 1856, although sh'ed been dancing some time above her 'classement', she was officially promoted from coryphée to sujet, and for the next fourteen years appeared as a practically permanent member of the team of sub-star ballerinas in both ballets (Le Corsaire, La Vivandière, Mario Spada, La Sylphide, Diavolina, Sacountala, Coppélia, Néméa, Les Elfes). She replaced Ferraris in the star role Pierre de Medicis, crossed to the Comédie Française to dance a pas de deux, danced Winter in the Seasons ballet in Les Vêpres Siciliennes, in Le Prophète, Dion Giovanni, La Juive, La Muette de Portici and Faust, and seems to have visited London's Princess's Theatre in 1859.
The authorial gentlemen of clubland don't mention her much, for she had one fault 'beaucoup de talent, ménagère de premier order'. First-class housewife. Madame Petit was married.



Adele Villiers 'une vraie danseuse'

Maria Savel probably served the Paris Opéra, in a dancing capacity, almost as long as anyone. I see her in 1848, a member of the corps de ballet in L'Apparition, but she very soon moved up in grade though L'Enfant prodigue, Zerline, Ballet des Nations, Le Prophète, Vert-VertGiselle, Aelia et Mysis, a sujet in Gemma, La Corsaire, Sacountala ... she is listed as a sujet in the cahiers of 1860, danced in Le Papillon in 1860, Alceste in 1861, Giselle in 1862  ... I see her in La Maschera in 1864 ... but she is part of that 'retired' list in 1867. Her fine performances were duly noted, but of her personal life I can find nothing...


Léontine Rousseau was another of the slightly older guard, whose engagement went back to the 1840s. In 1857, she was summed up as 'Déjà coryphée depuis longtemps et toujours jolie, talent correcte, propre, jamais hors ligne, jamais médiocre' (1857). In 1859 she danced the role of 'le jeune elfe' in Les Elfes, in 1863 she was still there, described as 'plantureuse', in 1867 she was said to be 'retired'.



These Corsaire ladies, however, did not have the whole of the 1850s sujetdom to themselves. Lacoste, Luigia Taglioni (Mme Fuchs), Astory, Delacquit, the two Laurents, 'Mathilde' (which may have been Marquet 2), Olimpia Priora , Nadège Bagdanoff, of the newly fashionable Russian tribe, Fournier, Caterina Baratte, Carlotta Morando, Adeline Théodore, Eugénie Schlosser, Irma Carabin, Henriette Mathé, Françoise-Virginie Mauperin, Pauline Mercier ('demi-mondaine, mistress of Vicomte Paul Daru of the Jockey Club'), our pal Clara Pilvois, Annette Mérante, Augustine Stoikoff, Leontine Beaugrand .. I'll have missed heap, but let's go with some of these ...

Mlle Baratte
Irma Carabin
Irma Carabin
Francoise-Virginie Mauperin
Augustine Stoikoff
Annette Mérante
Léontine Beaugrand





Pauline Mercier
Pauline Mercier in Le Diable à quatre (1862)

Olympia Priora was apparently 20 years old when she came to the Opéra to compound the Italianisation of the ballet. She came from Bologna as a 'prima ballerina', but her employ in Paris, though much enjoyed, wasn't quite at star level. Between 1851-3 she led the support team behind behind Adelaide Plunkett, Régina Forli et al, appearing as Blanche in Vert-Vert et al to much praise for her 'talent incontestable' and 'les bravos de la salle entière', before moving on to fresh successes in Vienna, and then round Europe.


Most of the foreign or 'foreign' dancers who appeared at the Opéra were top-of-the-bill names -- Rosati, Fabbri, 'Ferraris' (Marie-Louise Eloy, femme Kowalski), Cerrito, Couqui, Marie Petipa ...

Marie Petipa
but some did join the company at a slightly lesser level:

Luigia Taglioni was another Italian visitor. A relation (aunt?) of the more famous Marie Taglioni, and a member of a very dancing family. I presume it was she who married the ballet master Fuchs, and ended up as the Comtesse Dubourg. She seems to have appeared at the Opéra for the first time in 1848 in Nisida supporting Mdlles Plunkett and Fuoco, before moving on after 1854. Dubourg died in a hunting accident ...

Piedmontaise dancer Carlotta Morando arrived in Paris, having already made something of a name in Trieste (1849), Milan (1850-1) ....




Caterina Beretta (or Baretta) (b Milan ; d Milan 1 January 1911) has made the reference books, as after her dancing career was over she went on to become ballet-mistress at St Petersburg and at La Scala. The myth surrounding her has her birth date varying from 8 December 1839 to 11 November 1828 to 1840 (NYPL). Her career at the Opéra was of only three seasons, in which she was a well-liked sujet, after which she was allegedly paid a large sum to buy her contract out to make space for the Russian dancer Zenaide Richard (Mdlle Zina).





Zenaide Richard (aka Mlle Zina, Zina Mérante) (1832-d Courbevoie, 13 September 1890)



From Russia, also came Nadejda Bagdanoff, a pupil nevertheless of St Léon. She appeared as a sujet in the earlier 1850s. She seems to have made her official debut dancing Cerrito's role in La Vivandiere in 1851 and was judged 'promising'. I find several mentions of her in the various memoirs ... 'Nadejda Bagdanoff whose peculiar manner of appropriating to herself the entire stage did not obtain for her the good will of her companions of the dance. She was even accused of being a secret diplomatist sent over by the court of St Petersbourg..'. George Augustus Sala tells unappreciative tales of her in his Russian notes. She was better-liked at home, whither she was apparently obliged to flee because of the Crimean War. She appeared at Saint Petersbourg in support of Cerrito. In 1858 she danced Giselle in Berlin and subsequently made herself a reputation in central Europe. She seems to have retired in 1867.


I've gone off on a sidetrack. So, back to the 1850s. Well, maybe tomorrow.

Mlle Céline Moïse, One of the Moïses sisters, dancers at the Opéra ...?


Here, alas, my computer took an unfortunate overdose of lamb juice and died, taking with it the screeds of notes I had amassed on the remainder of the ladies of the ballet.

Had it survived you would have had the stories of the sisters Louise and Eugenie Fiocre, Elise Parent ...

Elise Parent


Mlle Morlot
Mlle Leroy, coyphée through the 1860s and 1870s

and here is 'Mdlle Blanche of the corps de ballet'  1862


...


Friday, March 29, 2019

A photo with a high and mighty story ...

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I was wandering through ebay yesterday, scouting out 19thcentury French ballerinas photographed by Disderi of Paris, and I came upon this rather elegant lady. Mrs Goodlake otherwise Miss Curwen. Curwen, ah! Memories of childhood piano music! Well, I was a bit fagged with day three of pointe shoes and gauze, so I thought I’d take time out to discover why a nice ordinary English lass was getting photographed in Paris.


 Well, I quickly discovered that she wan’t officially English, and she was far from ordinary. First step, I hied me to the Free BMD site, which informed me that Miss Margaret Jane Curwen married Gerald Littlehales Goodlake in 1870 (5 November). Well he shouldn’t be hard to track down with a name like that! And he wasn’t. And he was very far from ‘ordinary’. He won the VC, to start with. Son of Thomas Mills Goodlake, ‘from the well-known Letcombe Regis family’, of Wadley House, Faringdon. 

Findagrave rendered up a photo of Gerald’s grave, and of him. And a neat biographical sketch by William Bjornstad:

British Army Lieutenant General, Crimean War Victoria Cross Recipient. He received the award for his actions at Inkerman, Crimea (now part of the Russian Federation) on October 28, 1854 as a brevet major in the Coldstream Guards of the British Army. Born at Wadley, in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, England, he was commissioned in June 1850 as a lieutenant in the 21st Regiment of Foot of the British Army and the following year he transitioned into the Coldstream Guards. While serving in the Crimean War, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards and participated in various engagements, including the Battles of Alma, Inkerman, Balaclava, and Sevastopol. He later achieved the rank of lieutenant general and died in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England at the age of 57. In addition to the Victoria Cross, he received the French Legion of Honor and the Ottoman Empire Order of the Medjidie, among other military awards. His Victoria Cross citation reads: "On 28 October 1854 at Inkerman, Crimea, Major Goodlake was in command of a party of sharpshooters which held Windmill Ravine against a much larger force of the enemy, killing 38 (including an officer) and taking three prisoners. He also showed conspicuous gallantry on a later occasion when his sharpshooters surprised a picquet and seized the knapsacks and rifles of the enemy." His Victoria Cross is on display at The Guards Regimental Headquarters at Wellington Barracks, London, England. His letters to home while serving during the Crimean War were compiled in a book by Michael Springman entitled "Sharpshooter in the Crimea: The Letters of Captain Gerald Goodlake V.C." (2005).





And gracious, he has a wikipedia entry! Mother was the daughter of a baronet, so they’re all in Debrett. I could have guessed. Doesn’t mention his wife. And yet, I was to find, Margaret’s lineage was just as impressive as her husband’s. If not more so.

Margaret is buried in the same grave as Gerald. 34 years later. But findagrave was a bit iffy on her details, and they didn’t have a photo, so I posted this one. And set out to find more about her. That wasn’t hard either! 



Margaret was one of THE Curwens. The Curwens of Workington Hall, Cumbria. Lords of the Manor and all it surveyed for many centuries. The Curwens ran rather dry in the C18th and the sole heiress to the manor was like to lose the famed name in marriage. But, in a reversal of the usual process, when Isabella Curwen married John Christian, he took her name and armaments and became the ‘head of a family with which few of England’s nobility could compare, either for antiquity of lineage or extent of inheritance’. The Curwens ruled benignly over their lands and tenants – some splendid tales emerge from the journals of the time: a tale of John ‘the celebrated agriculturist’ paying his workers in food and clothing rather than cash, or in famine year, diverting the potatoes usually steamed and destined to feed his horses, to the villagers – and the marriage was fruitful in children. Their second son, William (b 1789; d 30 April 1822), was designed to the church, and became rector of Harrington, and before his premature death wed Margaret Ewing (d 14 May 1871) and gave birth to Robert Ewing Curwen (1816-1854). Which brings us to our Margaret. Robert was her father.

When she was baptised 1 November 1837 at Ketteringham, Norfolk, her father’s ‘abode’ was listed as Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. And in the 1881 census she says she was born in Glen Kens. So I guess that makes her officially Scots. Robert Curwen (‘sometime of Dallas Lodge, Forres’) evidently spent much time in Scotland, but it was much time of a little time. He died at Aviemore, Inverness-shire aged just 38 in 1854.



His extremely wealthy and extremely social widow headed south, daughter in tow, and the following year they were presented at court by Lady Cranworth. Margaret was seen dancing in the Quadrilles of the endless balls of the aristocracy (the participants in which were ruthlessly listed in the press), and took part in their amateur dramatics, Mother hosted balls, soirées musicales and concerts at her home at 42 Grosvenor Place, and the pair were seen eating and dancing everywhere in town and country, not to mention the ‘spots’ of France, in the houses of royalty and the titled, over the next fifteen years. Until Margaret married. So I guess it was during those years that the photo was taken. The inscription seems to have been an afterthought. 



Margaret, with her husband, continue to appear in the lists of those present at the same royal, military, musical and aristocrasocial gathering as before. He is aide de camp to the Queen. 6 January 1886, Mary Ann Curwen died at Cecil House, Brighton. She left a vast 172,000 pounds to Margaret, entailed to her eventual children (it was fairly obvious by now, at nearly 50, that she wasn’t going to have any) or to a mass of hospitals, topped by St George’s Hospital. I wonder if the Ewing Ward is still there.


Just four years later, the Colonel died, at their longtime home, The Fishery Mansion, Denham, Uxbridge. But Margaret lived on, nearly a quarter of a century .. I see her at Denham in 1891 with a butler, two maids, a laundrymaid, a manservant ..  cottages for the estate manger, gardener, gamekeepers. In 1911 she is at her other home, 36 Chester Square, with just eight servants … She died at her Buckinghamshire home 1 January 1924 and her will was executed by a spinster neighbour in Chester Square. 

Which leads me to the single oddity in this tale of the little lady in the photograph. In her marriage announcement, she firmly says ‘only child of Robert Ewing Curwen’. And mother leaves her all her 'millions'. But the amateur genealogists would have it otherwise. They credit Robert with a second child, a son bearing his father’s name. And the said Robert jr says on his wedcert that he is the son of REC sr. Now, this REC is a very respectable man. The doyen of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, a justice of the peace, plenty of wealth, plenty of servants … he died at the age of 93, in 1934 leaving a bundle of children and money. Odd.

Back to ballerinas. 



Sunday, March 24, 2019

Coryphées and courtisanes (2)

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In 1850 - 1851, when my little photographic survey is more or less beginning, the star dancer at the Opéra was [Marie] Adeline Plunkett (1824-1910). She had been on the stage for ten years already, and had been established as a première danseuse at the Paris house since 1845. She would shortly move on, after the establishment of the Second Empire, to the next stages of her colourful theatrical and amorous career on the other side of the channel and other parts of Europe.


The names of the other most featured (female) dancers at the dawn of the Empire can be gleaned from the cast lists. Which of the sujets, and occasionally coryphées, got to perform the secondary solos, pas de deux or trois, or the operatic dance roles, such as the part of the ghostly Abbess in Robert le diable?

Three names appear the most often. One is our Mlle Caroline, the other two are Elisabeth Robert and Célestine Emarot. When the famous Le Diable à Quatre was given, with Plunkett as the heroine, it was Mlle Robert who took the opposing role of the haughty Countess, while Emarot appeared as Yelva. When Robert le diable was given, Emarot was the phantom Abbess of Saint-Rosalie, Mlle Robert succeeded to the part of Lia in L'Enfant prodigue, and the same two ladies joined la Plunkett in the featured dance of the opera Zerline. And much so forth.

Célestine Emarot, [EMAROT, Marguerite Adelaide] (b Dijon 18 March 1824-1892) who was clearly at this time well regarded (Egyptienne in Enfant prodigue), has not suffered well in memoirs and other subsequent writings. Her mistake seems to have been to have had a daughter (illegitimate, 'by a member of the Jockey Club, Baron Charles de Chassiron') who became much more famous than she. That daughter was Emma Livry (eig Emarot), who became a première danseuse at the Opéra, and scored herself a place in history by, at the age of 21, dying of burns received in a backstage accident. No, those artist's impressions of a ballerina on stage, in flames, are pure imagination. Anyway, Emma's fate has been recounted umpteen times, rarely factually, and her mother is often referred to as if she were a minor danseuse. She is also dismissed rather roughly in some of the memoirs of the time. But Célestine was a solid and apparently well-liked dancer for many years: I wonder who didn't like her. Or did her second lover, Vicomte Ferdinand de Montguyon, have enemies.



 'Dark-eyed and dark-haired' Elisabeth Robert, 'star pupil of M Petit' at the Conservatoire, had been at the Opéra, also, for some years. I spot her in 1845. She created the Redowa with Petipa and Mlle Plunkett in Le Prophète. 27 June 1848, Paquerette with Cerrito in 1851 ('purété et correction de style'), the Pas du Delta in Enfant prodigue ('que vigeur hardi! quel feu! quel précision'), danced Luisetta in Stella ('comme mime Mlle Robert est convenable, comme danseuse  elle est excellent') and Fenella in La Muette de Portici (1851), and appeared at Covent Garden as première danseuse in La Rosiera. In 1852, she danced another season in London, and in 1856 she travelled to New York to become a much-fêted star dancer at Niblo's Gardens.
The memoirists' reports of her skill and her person, of course, vary. They do with all these ladies. Because the gentlemen reviewing and remembering have their favourites, their disappointments, maybe even their mistresses ... The Sporting Journal insists that 'to no inconsiderable degree of grace, unites a charming person', The Musical World judged her 'very talented, and an elegant dancer. Her features are expressive and her attitudes graceful and natural...' in France 'inimitable d'élégance et de précision'. Other dismissed her in a line or two, and went on to gush over someone else. I see her still, in 1867, premiere danseuse in Holland ..America loved her. So, apparently, did the Marquis d'Aligre who bequeathed her 100,000 francs to 'retain her virtue'..



Which Mlle Robert, I wonder....

I go back to my Enfant prodigue list. To the cast list of the Ballet des Nations, for Auber's opera Zerline ... Plunkett and Fabbri starring, Robert, Caroline and Emarot supporting ... who else turns up in a featured role at the turn of the demi-century?

Mademoiselle Nathan (b Vallières 7 December 1827) 'pupil of St Léon' is already a featured coryphée in L'Apparition in 1848, and thereafter playing, often in a featured number, in almost every ballet produced at the Opéra through the fifties and early sixties. She partnered St Léon in ventures to the Théâtre Lyrique (Le Danseur du roi, 1853) and to Vienna (Paquerette at the Burgtheater 1852)
and a contemporary 'Mlle Nathan est une des étoiles de notre ciel choréographique'. Tracking down her picture has not been easy, for there are other Mlle Nathans about in these years. Even one at the Opéra: a blast-the-ceiling-off soprano who was a little older than our girl. But I can identify one. Here she is in character, with her contemporary Carlotta Morando. Guess which is which!


Apparently Miss Nathan was (like her operatic counterpart) actually Mrs Nathan. Or so one cataloguer would have us believe. He credits her with seven children. Anyway, she was clearly a first-class dancer, and when she retired in 1866 she, like Emarot, was granted a government pension. It lasted as long as the Second Empire.

Actually, the 1848 cast of L'Apparition shows us several other already well-established danseuses of the Opéra ballet. Now, one has to be careful here, because programmes in those days were taken down from aural sources, not written, so anyone less than a star can have their name distorted almost unrecognisably. I have sorted out the supporting dancers as being three Marquets, 'Mathilde', Lacoste, Toussaint, Nathan, Legrain, Quéniaux and Rousseau The corps included Savel, Cassegrain, one of the Laurent sisters, Danfeld ('will stay a coryphée forever'), Guichard; the 'children' Gredelue, Mirmont, Crétin, Innemer (by any other spelling) Mathé ...

All right. I know you've been waiting for a bit of sauce and scandal, so let's get this first big semi-proven chunk out of the way. Constance [Adolphine] Quéniaux (sic) (b St Quentin, 9 July 1832; d Paris 7 April 1904), the illegitimate daughter of a 'gazetière', was long an appreciated sujet at the Opera. The list of ballets, operas and roles she undertook would fill a page, and, in 1859, when she danced solo in Les Vêpres Siciliennes the press nodded 'Mlle Quénieux s'y montre danseuse du goût; aussi receuille-t-elle en barvos mérités le fruit de son travail soutenu et persévérant. Mlle Quénieux est une des artistes aimées de l'Opéra; elle a de la tradition et un spontanéité de mouvement admirable. Son talent est plein de fraîcheur et plaît aux juges les plus sevères en matière d'art choréographique'. Her place in the hierarchy of the Opera ballet can be seen in the original casting of Le Corsaire in 1856: behind the Médora of Rosati, the featured dancers were Louise Marquet, Couqui, Caroline, Nathan, Quénieux, Legrain, and Aline. So Constance was not just another danseuse, she was one of the Opéra's A team.



But it was not for being a fine dancer that Constance has gone down in history. Nor even for being the adored 'lucky mascotte' of the troupe' for whom nothing went wrong. It was her private life. Constance became the mistress -- or, one of the mistresses -- of the very rich, prominent 'érotomane' Ottoman statesman and art-collector, known as Khalil-Bey. Khalil added to his art collection by commissioning pieces from contemporary artists, one of whom was Gustave Courbet, for his private delectation, and one of these was the picture known as 'L'Origine du Monde'. The picture -- which is simply a rather beautiful representation of female genitalia -- has been written about endlessly, and it has become the fashion to claim that Courbet's model (he needed one?) was our Constance. You know the kind of books and articles that claim 'at last, revealed, the identity ..'. Well, whether the model was indeed Constance or not, she is nowadays credited with the adventure, and has become the subject of all sorts of guessworkical writings.


Khalil Bey died in 1879, not yet fifty. Constance did much better. She lived on in luxury in Paris to the age of 82 (her death certificate says 75!) and the catalogue of her effects, sold up by Druout, makes lavish reading. Death certificate? Yes, so popular is Constance, thanks to the painting which may even not be she, that in the 21st century that a Parisian researcher, Benoit Maury, has exhumed her birth and death registrations ...

To complete the A team of that time, we have that slightly puzzling lady, Mlle Victorine Legrain (b circa 1833). She puzzles me because, after a notable start and a quick rise in status she apparently hit a hiccough, and, although regularly featured at the supporting level in Paris, only became a star when she left France. One commentator classes her as the best performer of the time, behind the big stars. Émile Abraham's brief sketch of the ballet, after a good gush over Rosati, Ferraris and Zina Richard, devotes just two indifferent lines to her. Puzzling. But these gents have their 'preferences'. Mlle Legrain is said to have been 'a child of the Opéra'. Another illegitimate daughter of a dancer? Anyway, she learned her dance there, and burst on to the scene, in her teens, in 1850, dancing Le Violon du diable and Stella. But then her career turned unusual. Instead of rising up the ranks, she shot off to London's Drury Lane to take the lead role of Lia in their huge production of L'Enfant prodigue. The spectacle ran, nightly, a full season. Victorine followed up around England (Une soirée carnival, La prima Ballerina) and ended up ... back at the Paris Opéra no longer a prima ballerina but a supporting sujet. She stuck it for what looks like about four years, but it seems Mlle Legrain, in spite of being well and frequently featured, wasn't content with sujetdom. Or someone wasn't content for her. In 1857, she resigned. There is no place here for a French étoile, mumbled the devoted press, confronted with the fashion for fancy Italian danseuses.
So, Victorine went to Turin (surely there was a man in the picture!) and the Vienna Hofoper, and she became a danseuse étoile all round Europe. In 1869, Nestor Roqueplan brought her back to Paris, to star in his Châtelet production of La Poudre de Perlinpinpin, after which she returned to Austria and Germany. In 1873, one critic remarked rather cruelly 'sie tanzt wirklich sehr gut. Ihre Pirouetten und Entrechats sind jiung gebleiben, nur das Gesicht ...'. She seems to have visited Manchester in 1875 (if it were not an impostor) to dance in panto.
Nobody seems to know what became of Mlle Legrain. Evidently, she remained based in Turin where she became well-established as a teacher. And...? What do I know of her life? The only anecdote I find of her is of a 'relationship' with the Sicilian Prince Petrulla, sometime loyalist Neapolitan ambassador to Vienna and ... yeah.


Surely there must be photos of the lady, somewhere in Austria .. or Turin?

End of episode. For my next, I'll go back to the Corsaire (b) team: Mlles Cellier, Poussin, Troisvalets, Pierron, Villiers, Savel, and Rousseau.

PS I'm sure there are ballet books that have the details I'm missing. But I'm picking up from primary sources ... I prefer that!