A party for the ages

This week in 1664, King Louis XIV hosted a multi-day party at Versailles. The festival, called Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée [The Pleasures of the Enchanted Island], transformed the grounds of Louis’ not-quite-finished palace into a mythical wonderland. Between May 7 and 13, over 600 invitees were treated to banquets, balls, spectacles, parades, recitals, and plays–including the premieres of Molière’s La Princesse d’Élide (which featured music by Jean-Baptiste Lully) and Tartuffe.

Festivals and parties were an important feature of aristocratic life at the Sun King’s court; the spectacles both displayed and celebrated Louis’ wealth and power. Print culture played a role in commemorating and advertising these lavish events. Attendees received an official program, and an official record with text and illustrations was produced later that year. In 1673, the French court re-issued a limited number of engravings of the festival, which were distributed as diplomatic gifts. Special Collections owns one copy of this book, Les plaisirs de l’isle enchantée, ou, Les festes et diuertissements du roy à Versailles (Paris: Imprimerie Royale. Call number: Vault Collection Folio 792.0944 Si39p 1673). Here are a few of the plates:

 

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