Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Creole off to the French Opera

"A Creole off to the French Opera" 11 x 14. Available. 

 My painting "A Creole off to the French Opera" is the 3rd painting in a series of paintings I call "Creoles in doorways".  This series of paintings show fashionable Creoles standing in front of doorways of Louisiana interiors. This painting shows a fashionably dressed young Creole gentleman in the latest fashions of Winter from Paris of the 1820's. The interior is a mix of Creole, French and American furniture and decorative arts. After the 1803 Louisiana purchase Creole interiors included more furnishings and decorative arts from the East Coast of America with trade. Like the New York city made Duncan Phyfe games table with carved eagle gilt and verd-antique suport circa 1815 and the American Federal Eglomise painted and gilt mirror with carved eagle top. 

On the card table is a French Empire Purple Amethyst cut glass Classical urn with ormolu mounts in the Neoclassical taste planted with pansies. A Early Louisiana French inspired Creole armoire with molded cornice over a pair of paneled doors with fiche hinges, shaped apron, on delicate cabriole legs, can be seen to the right of the room. During this period wealthy Creoles had wall-to-wall floorcovering. The carpet looms of this period produced narrow width strips, usually 27” wide that were then hand-sewn together, laid upon the floor and tacked down. 

Costly carpets like the classical one in the painting were usually only placed down during the winter months and taken up and stored during the Summer months, replaced with cooler straw mats. The Théâtre d'Orléans (English: Orleans Theatre) was the most important opera house in New Orleans in the first half of the 19th century. New Orleans is known as the birthplace of opera in the United States. 

Opera has long been part of the musical culture of New Orleans, Louisiana. Operas have regularly been performed in the city since the 1750s, and for the majority of the city's history since the early 19th century, New Orleans has had a resident company regularly performing opera in addition to theaters hosting traveling performers and companies.

A Very Fine Louisiana Figured Mahogany Armoire, late 18th/early 19th c.

Attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1770-1854) 
New York, 1815

A American Federal Eglomise painted mirror and gilt mirror with carved eagle top. 

Operas were staged at a variety of theaters in the city, the first documented was André Grétry's Sylvain at the Theatre de la Rue Saint Pierre on 22 May 1796. On 30 January 1808, the Théâtre St. Philippe was opened with the U.S. premiere of Étienne Méhul's Une folie. The U.S. premiere of Luigi Cherubini's Les deux journées took place at this theater on 12 March 1811. The city's most famous opera venue between 1819 and 1859 was the Théâtre d'Orléans. That theater was succeeded in 1859 by the French Opera House, located on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Living in a cosmopolitan city, New Orleans' inhabitants, whether high in status or low, imported or indigenous, constituted a highly receptive audience.

A pair of French Empire Purple Amethyst glass Classical urn with ormolu mounts 

The Orleans Theatre and Ballroom, 1838

The Théâtre d'Orléans (English: Orleans Theatre) was the most important opera house in New Orleans in the first half of the 19th century. The company performed in French and gave the American premieres of many French operas. It was located on Orleans Street between Royal and Bourbon. The plans for the theatre were drawn up by Louis Tabary, a refugee from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Construction began in 1806, but the opening was delayed until October of 1815 (after the War of 1812). After a fire, it was rebuilt (with the adjacent Orleans Ballroom) and reopened in 1819, led by another émigré from Saint-Domingue, John Davis. Davis became one of the major figures in French theatre in New Orleans. The theatre was destroyed by fire in 1866, but the ballroom is still used.

Orleans Ballroom in 1964. 

In 1817 John Davis engaged architect William Brand to design the Orleans Ballroom (Salle d'Orléans) next to the theatre. It was the site of many subscription balls, carnival balls, and masquerades and catered to the most select of New Orleans Creole society. For gala events the ballroom could be joined to the theatre, where temporary flooring was laid over the pit, making one enormous ballroom. The facilities also included gambling rooms, "for those unlucky at love." When the noted American architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe visited in 1819, he judged it to be the best in the United States. The Marquis de Lafayette was entertained here during his six-day visit in 1826.

In 1964
The famous New Orleans bals du cordon bleu (quadroon balls) were usually held at the Salle de Condé at the corner of Chartres and Madison streets, but were also occasionally held at the Orleans Ballroom. At these events wealthy, respectable Creole gentlemen would court young mixed-race women and provide them with a house in the Faubourg Tremé or the French Quarter. Many duels were fought over these "Quadroon Mistresses".

The ballroom survived the 1866 fire that claimed the theatre and in 1873 was purchased by mulatto Thomy Lafon, who was named for Creole architect Barthélemy Lafon. It became a convent and school for the Sisters of the Holy Family, a religious order founded in the city – the first female-led African-American religious order in the country. The old ballroom became their chapel. Once, when a sister was showing a visitor the convent, she stopped at the chapel door. "This is the old Orleans Ballroom; they say it is the best dancing floor in the world. It is made of three thicknesses of cypress. That is the balcony where the ladies and gentlemen used to promenade. Down there, on the banquette, the beaux used to fight duels."

In 1964, the ballroom was bought and renovated by the Bourbon Orleans Hotel; today it can be, once again, used as a ballroom.

"A Creole off to the French Opera" 11 x 14. Available. 

If you would like to see more of my Art works you can visit my site here. 


  1. You make New Orleans much more historical and interesting than I ever knew it was.
    all the luxury also

  2. Yes New Orleans was a amazing place in the past and still is! Thanks for your comment