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Claude Gillot
Study of female costumes for the Comédie Française
Pen and ink, brush and red ink wash and watercolour on paper
Bought from the Biffen Fund, 2006

Gillot is best-remembered as the first master of Antoine Watteau (from around 1703 to 1708), but he was a distinctive and highly imaginative artist in his own right. Working largely independently of state patronage, he made a living as a decorator, book illustrator, designer of arabesques and tapestry cartoons, but drew his principal source of inspiration from the popular theatre. His biographers record that he was a playwright himself, that he ran a puppet theatre, and that for a time he was in charge of sets, machinery and costume at the Paris Opâra. H e received his most famous commission in the last year of his life, for costume designs for the Ballet des Eléments, a court spectacle held at the Théâtre des Machines in the Tuileries on New Year's Eve, 1721. However quite some time before this, between 1697 and 1703, he is known to have provided designs for three operas by André-Cardinal Destouches (1672-1749), while recent research has also suggested that he may have designed costumes for de la Motte's Europe galante, the first true opera-ballet performed at the Opéra in October 1697 and revived in 1715. The performance for which these costumes were designed is unknown.


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