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Mérante's SYLVIA, 1876? illustration

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These two scans show a steel engraving? illustration from the time of the premiere of Delibes's SYLIVA.

It's been reproduced before, to be sure, but this is the first I've seen at full scale.

The picture is signed, if I read it correctly, "F. Meaulle g(?) c(?)"

The caption reads:

GRAND OPERA. - "Sylvia", ballet de M. Léo Delibers. - Le char de Bacchus (4e tableau). - (Dessin de M. Bocourt, d'après l'aquarelle de M. Lacoste , dessinateur des costumes.)

(The second scan closes in on the inset portion of the illustration, showing the arrival of Sylvia on the scene, and indicates how closely the Ironside brothers modeled their set design for Ashton's remake of the ballet.)

post-848-089907200 1291499242_thumb.jpg

post-848-078130000 1291499450_thumb.jpg

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Just a clarification on the technology of the art.

This page appears to have been made in the stereotype process, which involves casting entire pages in typemetal using a wet-matrix mold of papier-maché. Typemetal can generously be called a kind of pewter, being made of lead, tin, and a little antimony. The process was invented in the 1790s, but didn't really catch on until the second quarter of the 19th century, when the Illustrated Newspaper (London, Harpers, Gleason's, etc.) took off as a genre. The soft metal of the pictorial plates were not as hard as steel (or as expensive!) But they wore a lot better than the former boxwood plates which could only do a few hundred impressions. With stereotypy, entire PAGES could be cast at one time, and they then could be sold into syndication as whole sheets, giving the outlands the same form and content as the city slickers!

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as always, Mel, i am much obliged and will seek out further info on the process you so helpfully describe.

i suspect the Ironside brothers knew had their technical jargon down pat too.

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The process gave rise to two words, "stereotype" - meaning an unchanging image from one sheet to the next, and "cliché" - taking its name by onomatopoeia from the sound made by the molten metal striking the moist paper matrix. Oddly, both were initially intended as complimentary descriptions!

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(The second scan closes in on the inset portion of the illustration, showing the arrival of Sylvia on the scene, and indicates how closely the Ironside brothers modeled their set design for Ashton's remake of the ballet.)

You know I clicked on the photos before reading your comments and my very first thought was that the illustrations so much resembled the production used for Ashton's version of the piece!

THEN I read your comments. Well I guess my powers of observations aren't completely gone yet!

I'm really glad that the RB and then ABT were able to stage this piece over the last several years. It's really too fine a piece with such a lovely score to be lost.

We complain about ABT and their stagings but they certainly have been giving some space and care to the works of Ashton recently for which I am thankful.

Thanks again for the ALWAYS interesting photos/illustrations.

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