Cultural events

Mademoiselle Guimard, dancer at the Opéra under the Ancien Régime




    Bust in marble of La Guimard by Merchi Gaetano, 18th century

  • Practical information

  • Hors les murs
    Musée des Beaux-Arts
    18, place François Sicard
    37000 Tours

    Tous les jours de 9h à 12h45 et de 14h à 18h – Fermé le 14 juillet

    Plein tarif : 6 €
    Tarif réduit : 3 €

from June 14, 2018 to October 1, 2018 Off-site

Marie-Madeleine Guimard (1743-1816) occupied pride of place in the Opera world in the 18th century. Born in Paris in 1743, she started her career of dancer in 1758 in the corps de ballet of the Comédie-Française. In 1761, she joined the Paris Opéra where, according to Noverre, ballet master at the Académie royale de musique, she « was acclaimed from the beginning to the end of her career ».

In the following year, she was noticed when playing the part of Terpsichore in the ballet, Les Festes grecques et romaines. Then, she became more and more famous and was soon granted the highest status of first dancer. Collaborating with the most famous masters of her time (Noverre, but also Vestris or Gardel), she played noble parts before choosing the demi-caractère genre. She won reknown thanks to the Caprices de Galathée (1776), La Chercheuse d’esprit (1778) or La Fête de Mirza (1781).

The observers all agree to notice that she was ‘neither beautiful nor even pretty’. However, she succeeded in charming the audience with her unique look and exquisite tone, and played a leading part on the stage during almost thirty years. She was particularly good at pantomime and a brilliant performer in the field of the anacreontic ballet. But dance is not the only reason for the first dancer’s fame. From the very beginning of her career, her love life fueled all types of newspapers. Choosing her lovers among the high society, she ensured a comfortable income that allowed her to live a lavish lifestyle. She had two mansions built in Pantin and la Chaussée-d’Antin where she organized lavish bals, operas and other shows where the Tout-Paris rushed up.

She said goodbye to the stage in London in 1789 and at the same time gave up her libertine life getting married the same year with Despréaux. Her death, in 1816, was hardly known by the general public.

Dans les collections de la BnF

In the framework of the operation, « Dans les collections de la BnF », the Bibliothèque nationale de France continues its partnership with the musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours. Last year, the Library presented some prints by Mantegna that were displayed together with the two masterpieces of the artist held by the museum. This year, the it accepted to lend a sculpture and several drawings representing Marie-Madeleine Guimard. This thematic exhibition allows to present this famous Opéra dancer who was also a brilliant performer in the field of the anacreontic ballet under the Ancien Régime.

Each year, the BnF presents a « treasure » or a selection of works in four or five heritage institutions in the provinces; an opportunity to share its rich heritage collections with a wider public. The selected works can also have a symbolic value or be locally connected to an event or specific collections.

In Tours, the bust of Mademoiselle Guimard, made by Gaëtan Merchi in 1779 and the sketches of her costumes drawn by Louis Bocquet, are perfectly in line with the collections of the musée des Beaux-Arts which holds an outstanding collection of 18th century paintings among which several portraits of dancers under the Ancien Régime.

On its historical site located rue de Richelieu in Paris, the BnF will open a museum in 2021. It will allow to discover an anthology of the rich heritage collections that also belong to the Nation. The operation « Dans les collections de la BnF » already allows a wider public to discover these collections in the provinces.

Friday, June 29, 2018


Communiqué de presse

Communiqué de presse [fichier .pdf – 76 Ko – 01/06/18 – 2 p.]