Historical biography Uncategorised

The Caricature of Mlle Parisot by Newton


Two interesting points arise from a closer examination of Richard Newton’s caricature of Parisot. It would be natural to take at face value the engraved titling of this print:

Mademoiselle Parisot

Sketched at the Opera by Rd Newton

London Pub. by W Holland No. 50 Oxford St.
‘Mademoiselle Parisot’ by Richard Newton, © British Museum.

The impression in the British Museum adds the year 1796 but if you look closely (and you can!) you will see that the date is added in manuscript – though there is the ghost of an engraved date which certainly ends in a “6”. In the impression held in the Theatre Collection at Harvard the full date survives – “ … April 28 1796” though the “8” has been overwritten in ink to show an “0”. This is all very strange but if we apply George Chaffee’s dictum “Always read the image” I think we can explain away the anomaly in the engraved date.

If we look at the image – what do we see – we see Mlle Parisot dancing with two figures in the stage box but who are they? Well the British Museum impression, again in manuscript has the addition of “D. of Queensbury” and we might expect to see him as he appeared, and appeared readily identified, in a previous print which bears the titling “A Peep at the Parisot! with Q in the Corner!/ I Cruikshank / London Pub May 7 1796 by S.W. Fores No. 50 Piccadilly.” In that print he is also using a Dollond monocular to look up the dancer’s skirt. The second occupant of the box who is also observing the dancer through a glass is also readily identifiable – it is Shute Barrington (1734-1826), Prince Bishop of Durham – he whose intervention in a Lord’s debate on Divorce brought down a cascade of caricatures when he attacked French Opera Dancers

who by their allurement of the most indecent attitudes, and most wanton theatrical exhibitions, corrupted the people.

The Parliamentary Register, vol. 5 (London: J. Debrett, 1798). Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

The problem arises when we find that the noble prelate made his speech on 2nd March 1798, two years after the supposed engraving of the print!

I think that the solution is that Newton’s print was engraved in 1798 and fraudulently dated 1796 to match the Cruickshank caricature – subsequently the erroneous date was erased from the plate and in the case of the British Museum impression someone who knew of the existence of the earlier date simply attempted to restore it. It makes every pictorial sense that this print belongs with those of the well documented 1798 costume controversy.1

The Royal Collection contains a drawing which has been catalogued thus:

Mademoiselle Parisot, a ballet dancer, is watched by 2 old men, Duke of Queensbury and Barrington, Bishop of Durham (?). Copy of the print BM Sat. 8893.

I’m afraid I have not seen this drawing ‘live’ but (again through excellent internet access) I think that this is undoubtedly the original drawing by Newton for the print and not a copy made from it. It would make no sense to shift the figure in making a copy of the print and in any case the drawing is clearly very superior to the subsequent engraving and a most charming (and presumably more accurate) portrait of this dancer.

Detail of the Houghton Library copy of Newton’s ‘Mademoiselle Parisot’.

A Harvard impression gives “Oxford St April 20th [or 28th ] 1796″ which has been removed in the British Museum impression – I suspect that it was published in 1798 with a false date – hence its removal from the plate – why? Goodness knows.


  1. Rauser, Amelia. 2020. The Age of Undress: Arts, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s. Yale University Press, pp. 84-85. Editor’s note: This source betrays the conflation of events relating to Mlle Parisot in 1796 and 1798 as observed above by Cavers.

Next post

‘Portraits of Mlle Parisot’ by Sarah McCleave will appear on 27 February.

Historical biography Uncategorised

Three’s a crowd: Mlle Parisot part 2


James Gillray, ‘Modern Grace, or the operatically finale to Alonzo e Cora’. From the New York Public Library,

In spring 1796 Parisot continued to attract interest, not only for her own comely person, but for her relationships with others. James Gillray’s print as shown above depicts (from left to right) Madame Rose Didelot, Charles-Louis Didelot, and Parisot in the finale to the King’s Theatre’s May 1796 production of Alonso e Cora (chor. Giacomo Onorati).

This print is a caricature on several levels; first, let’s consider the movement style of the dancers. Rose Didelot, described in one source as the ‘last of the old school, la belle ecole de VESTRIS’ (1), is depicted in a relatively upright pose reminiscent of the noble style. Parisot – described as offering ‘less formal graces’ (2) – is seen in a more extended attitude. But it is the dynamic between the dancers that is the actual focus of the caricature. Mme Didelot’s husband is orientated completely towards the younger dancer, with his hand and foot forming a suggestive frame that points to Parisot’s genital region. Parisot’s head is inclined flirtatiously towards Didelot while Mme Didelot looks on in evident disapproval. The exposure of one of Parisot’s breasts was a comment on her scanty costumes, which weren’t necessarily of her choice. The perhaps too acute Gillray adroitly portrays a dynamic.

Despite the very public nature of this pictorial comment, no crisis was reported regarding the Didelots’ marriage, and all three dancers returned to the King’s Theatre in autumn 1796. In May 1797 the King’s Theatre staged a new ballet, Sappho and Phaon, that can in retrospect be considered another document in the story of this ‘love triangle’. Didelot is advertised as the choreographer, and is clearly credited as the creator in the published scenario (3). In this publication, Didelot himself describes the mythical story of Sappho:

The celebrated Sappho left nothing to posterity but a few pieces of poetry … We only learn that she loved Phaon, and that he was ungrateful; left her for one of her pupils; returned to her more through pride than love, and abandoned her once more– that she followed him even to Sicily, and that, unable to gain his heart, she threw herself into the deep from the rock of Leucate (4).

Didelot saw fit to cast his wife as the unloved Sappho, and himself as the ‘ungrateful’ Phaon. He used the Advertisement of the ballet scenario to point out that he decided to make the mythically beautiful Sappho ugly, in order to highlight the moral allegory in his imagined denouement, and to render Sappho ‘more interesting [and] to show the goodness of her heart’ (4). Quite.

In another flash of gifted casting, Parisot featured as the goddess of love Venus; her character was moved to tutor the famously beautiful Phaon in the arts of love in the opening scene. Indeed, the scenario afforded the character of Phaon the opportunity to make love to each of three female leads (the third was one of the Hilligsbergs) during the course of the ballet – hence its title-page designation as a ‘ballet érotique’. And while Sappho is offered the chance of revenge under Venus’s protection in Didelot’s dénouement, we might wish to note that she explicitly rejects the possibility of Phaon’s death, or even the milder punishment that he be rendered ugly. One can appreciate the appeal of a ballet where a philandering lover meets no consequences for Monsieur Didelot. And who can blame a man who would stray from an ugly partner? This piece of art was mirroring life all too closely, for by August both the Courier (8 August) and Observer (13 August) breathlessly reported:

There has been a fracas between some of the dancers at the Haymarket, on account of an illicit pas de deux. The enchantress was none other than the divine Parisot; and of the forsaken one it may be said, in the phrase of Shakespeare:

Against the blown Rose

They do stop their nose,

That kneel’d unto the buds.

Within days, Parisot is reported as returning to the continent (Morning Chronicle 16 August 1797). When the non-renewal of her contract was announced, the True Briton (18 November 1797) declared that the ‘gratification of the public’ was not taken into account, revealing that Parisot, ‘the greatest attraction of last year’, had offered ‘her services’ for the coming season. The choice of language here (gratification, services) is suggestive, although not as overtly so as this grotesque anticipation of Parisot’s marriage that was published during the performance run of Didelot’s ‘ballet érotique’:

Madame PARISOT is going to enter into the holy state of Matrimony before next winter. She will be able to exhibit some new motions and attitudes (5).

The reception of this young dancer in words and images during her first stint in London reveals some troubling trends in then-current attitudes towards young, nubile female dancers. Parisot was fodder for the press and the caricaturists, an objectified body for elderly peers of the realm to covet, and a pliant conquest for an older, married colleague. And it was she who took the rap for their affair, being obliged to leave a position upon which she and her family were financially dependent. #MeToo. #Parisot. To be continued.


  1. ‘London’, St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post 4-6 May 1797. Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection. Gale.
  2. True Briton 29 May 1797. Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection. Gale.
  3. True Briton 5 May 1797. Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection. Gale. See also C.L. Didelot. 1797. Sapho & Phaon: grand ballet erotique, en quatre actes. Composé par M. Didelot. Et donné pour la Iere fois sur le Théâtre du Roi, Hay-Market, le 6 avril 1797. La musique composée par M. Mazzinghi. Les décorations par M. Greenwood. Les habits par M. Sestini. De l’imprimerie de Baylis , 15, Greville Street, Holborn. Se trouve chez A. Dulau and Co. Wardour – Street. Soho. Eighteenth Century Collections Online.
  4. Didelot, ‘Advertisement.’
  5. Morning Post (London), 16 May 1797. Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection. Gale.


Modern grace, or the operatical finale to the ballet of Alonzo e Caro [sic]; [London], H. Humphrey, 1796 / J[ames] G[illra]y d[elineavit] et f[ecit. Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (1796 – 1840). Irina Baronova collection of dance prints Retrieved from Accessed 23 October 2021.

Next post

The first of a pair of posts on the dancer Hester Santlow, by Moira Goff, will appear on 10th November.

Historical biography Uncategorised

Noblet to Taglioni: Call for contributors 5

Above: Anonymous print of Marie Sallé in ‘Ballet des fleurs’ from the New York Public Library.

Below are further proposed themes, subjects, and and images for the Dance Biography blog:

“ESCAPING EFFIE” Noblet, Lise (1801-1852)

Costume sketch, Hautecoeur-Martinet, number 728, Lise Noblet in La Sylphide as Effie, circa 1832. Houghton library, George Chaffee Dance Collection.

Grévedon, Henri, 1776-1860 (artist), and Alphonse Bichebois, 1801-1850 (lithographer). ‘Melle Noblet de l’Académie royale de Musique.’

Paris, [182-].  The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Maleuvre , Louis, b. 1785 (engraver). ‘Costume de Mlle. Noblet dans La révolte au sérail ballet. Acte II.’ Paris, [1833?].

Vigneron, Pierre Roch, 1789-1872 (del.). ‘Melle. Noblet, Académie royale de musique.’ [Paris], [c. 1830]. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

FORTHCOMING Parisot, Mlle (c. 1775-after 1837) ‘Body on Show’ by Sarah McCleave

FORTHCOMING Sallé, Marie (1709?-1756) ‘La Vestale’ by Sarah McCleave

FORTHCOMING: Santlow, Hester, ‘The Loves of Mars and Venus’ (provisional title) by Moira Goff.

FORTHCOMING Subligny, Marie-Thérèse (1666-1735?) ‘The First Lady of Dance’ by Jennifer Thorp.

Mariette, Jean, 1660-1742 (engraver). “Mademoiselle Subligny dansant à l’Opéra.” Paris, [169-?]. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

THE GENIUS OF DANCE: Taglioni, Maria (1804-1884)

‘Taglioni.’ Paris: F. Sinnett (rotonde 10) galerie Colbert [183-?]. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Grévedon, Henri, 1776-1860 (illustrator). [‘Marie Taglioni.’] [Paris, ca.1840]. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1840.

Lane, Richard James, 1800-1872 (artist), after Alfred Edward Chalon. ‘Marie Taglioni [fac. sig.].’ [London], 1831. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Lange, Jane (Ange-Louis Janet, 1811-1872), illustrator, lithographer, engraver. ‘Scène des fleurs, dansée par Mlle Taglioni (Académie Royale de musique).’

Noël, Alphonse Léon, 1807-1884 (lithographer). ‘Mlle Taglioni Académie de Musique.’ Paris, [c.1840]. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Vigneron, Pierre Roch, 1789-1872 (artist). ‘Melle. Taglioni.’ Paris, [183-]. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Offers of contributions, on the above or other subjects, to the editor Sarah McCleave,