Six Scenes from the Balli di Sfessania (Dance of Sfessania)

Accession Number

Six Scenes from the Balli di Sfessania (Dance of Sfessania)

Jacques Callot

Artist Nationality
French (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
circa 1620-22

Medium & Support
etching and engraving on laid paper

9 1/4 in x 7 7/8 in (23.5 cm x 20 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Professor Walter M. and Nesta R. Spink

Label copy
Jacques Callot
France, 1592–1635
Six scenes from the Balli di Sfessania (Dance of Sfessania)
ca. 1622
Etching and engraving on laid paper
Gift of Professor Walter M. and Nesta R. Spink, 2013/2.557

Subject matter
This print is one of a series of 24 etchings that depict the Balli di Sfessania, an imaginative rendering of dancers performing the moresca, a dance that symbolizes the battles between Christians and Moors during the Middle Ages—"sfessania" may have been the Neopolitan name for the version of the moresca danced in Malta; many of the words inscribed on these prints are Neapolitan. This print is divided into six separate registers, each of which contains two costumed dancers performing in an outdoor piazza observed by spectators. Although the costumes might suggest they are Commedia dell'arte players, Donald Posner has convincingly argued that they are ordinary fairground performers, and that Callot likely invented most of them—perhaps basing the group on a troupe of performers he observed in Florence or elsewhere. Likewise, the text written underneath each performer may refer to a moment in the dance, rather than a particular named individual. This print, for example, includes a figure in the lower left scene labeled "Cucurucu," Italian for the rooster's cry "cock-a-doodle-doo," indicating a wake-up call. 

Physical Description
Etching depicting six scenes in which two costumed performers dance in response to each other.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
intaglio print

Collection Area

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costumes (character dress)
dances (performance events)
masks (costume)
performances (creative events)

4 Related Resources

History of Western Sexuality and Gender Roles
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Theater and Drama
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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