Explication des ceremonies de la Fete-Dieu d'Aix. Gaspard Gregoire.
Explication des ceremonies de la Fete-Dieu d'Aix.
Explication des ceremonies de la Fete-Dieu d'Aix.

Explication des ceremonies de la Fete-Dieu d'Aix.

Publisher Information: Aix-en-Provence: Esprit David, 1777. 1st edition. A Fine Festival Book Book Id: 12690

[GREGOIRE, Gaspard, pere.] Explication des ceremonies de la FÍte-Dieu díAix en Provence. . . . 12mo. [2], 220pp. Fronts. portrait of Rene díAnjou (1408-80) & 13 plates ( 1 folding with music), mostly engraved by Gaspard GREGOIRE fils (1751-1846), after drawings by his brother Paul GREGOIRE. 190 x 109 mm. Wrappers c. 1800, uncut, spine chipped. Very faint dampstain in gutter of first two leaves, a little browning & soiling. Very good copy. Aix: David, 1777.

First Edition. A very full account of the Corpus Christi pageant in Aix, with twelve plates showing theater and dance, and one with notation for five accompanying pieces of music. Barbier II 378 attributes the work to the Aix silk manufacturer, Gaspard Grergoire, and his sons Gaspard and Paul. Gaspard fils manufactured a famous velvet, "velours Gregoire," which could be painted; his brother Paul became the first to paint on velvet. Their works were exhibited in Paris, at the Louvre, in the early 1800ís; the Gregoire fabrics are preserved in several French museums today. (Paul, by the way, was a deaf-mute from birth.) The Gregoires, as Aix manufacturers, would probably have had a prominent role in the pageant, which was, even in the 18th century, one of the great city affairs of the year. Doubtless they supplied cloth for the costumes, and were in a position to provide specialist descriptions of the masks and dress of the participants.

The Corpus Christi pageant reached its height in the 15th century, when it became in effect the principal feast of the Church, a time for the most magnificent processions of nobles and clerics, and for the mystery plays put on by the merchants and craftsmen which were the foundation of modern theater in the countries of Europe. The late medieval traditions of the pageant were preserved at Aix still in the 18th century. Gregoire saw in them the hand of the first patron of the Aix pageant, Rene, duke of Anjou, whose daughter Marguerite married Henry VI of England. Rene was viewed around Gregoireís time as a paragon of chivalry, as well as a poet, painter and musician; he was indeed a patron of the arts, whose reputation earned him a line in Shakespeareís Henry VI ("whose large style agrees not with the leanness of his purse" quoted in Oxford companion to French literature in the article on Rene). Whatever personal guidance the duke gave the pageant, its symbolic costumes, dramas and dances were rooted in the Christian and pagan folklore of the region.

Gregoire's full descriptions of the various ceremonies of the week-long springtime holiday in its last years before the French Revolution are very valuable for reconstructing French folk habits and social arrangements. Lipperheide II 2804. Benezit V 190 re the Gregoires. We note that NUC NG 0500151 shows a 1773 edition of the Explication; however, no other reference shows this, nor does the book itself give any indication of reissue: the dedication is dated January, 1777; the approbation is August, 1776; and footnotes to the text give references to the year 1776.


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