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L’art du costume à la Comédie-Française (The Art of Costume at The Comédie-française)

Start Date 11 June 2011
End Date December 2011
Venue Centre National du Costume de Scene
Location Moulins, France
Curator Renato Bianchi and Agathe Sanjuan
Designer Roberto Platé and Jacques Rouveyrollis
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins

Since its founding by Louis XIV, the Sun King, more than three centuries ago, the Comédie-Française has fulfilled the mission assigned to it: to walk the path of excellence in all areas of entertainment, including costume .

A tribute to the Comédie-Française, this exhibition is first and foremost dedicated to its costume workshops and their director, as well as to the illustrious names who have marked its history, by offering an exceptional set of more than 200 costumes, from the collections. of the Comédie-Française deposited with the CNCS and of the theatre fund. This event is all the more spectacular given that the scenography, directly inspired by the famous Salle Richelieu, includes a “room” part and a “backstage” part, leading the public on a theatrical journey through the world of the Comédie-Française.

At the heart of the historical panorama offered, from the 18th century to the present day, a large place will be given to the costumes of plays by the great authors of classical theatre, Corneille, Racine, and above all Molière, the “patron” of the Comédie-Française. From the latter, for lack of period costume, the Comédiens-Français have kept a very moving stage piece of furniture, the patient’s chair in which Molière gave the last performance of his final play Le Malade imaginaire . Among the actors, the greatest performers will be mentioned: Lekain, Talma, Rachel, Mounet-Sully, to name a few.

The exhibition will also address the decisive influence in the 20th century of certain directors and costume designers on the art of costume at the Comédie-Française. The “in-house costumers”, among others Suzanne Lalique and Renato Bianchi, who left their mark on the work of the workshops for a long time, both as workshop directors and costume designers, and the guest costume designers, including Sonia Delaunay, Christian Bérard, Carzou, or even Cecil Beaton, Christian Lacroix, Boris Zaborov, Thierry Mugler and many others …

Some benchmarks …

The oldest troupe in France

For more than three centuries, the Comédie-Française troupe has interpreted the classical and contemporary repertoire.
She has participated in all the scenic revolutions that have marked the history of theatre in France, and in particular the art of stage costume.

When Louis XIV, in 1680, ordered the creation of a single troupe, choosing to constitute it the best actors from two rival companies, his aim was to “make comedies more perfect”, the Comédie-Française never stood still. departing from this preoccupation with excellence, for the constitution of the repertoire, its interpretation and its implementation on the set.

The “clothing store”

Private domain of actors until then responsible for their wardrobes, the theatrical cloakroom was gradually taken over by the institution from the middle of the 18th century, a moment also coinciding with the first aesthetic reforms of costume. The “clothing store” was born at this time, a stock of costumes of which there are still vestiges today, in particular the famous costumes for Voltaire’s L’Orphelin de la Chine (1755), for which the author gave up his shares. in order to finance costumes of a new kind.

Images courtesy of National du Costume de Scene, Moulins, France