(Paris): Bal des Quat’z’Arts, 1912-1956.  27 invitation cards, (of various sizes), to the notorious Parisian annual costume ball.  The ball first commenced in 1892, and apart from the war years ran, until 1966.  Attendance to the ball was restricted to students and former students of the École, as well as “artistic personalities” who had contributed to the preparation of the ball.  The balls were held in several major venues scattered throughout Paris over the years, with most taking place at the Moulin Rouge, the Salle Wagram, and the Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles.  Although in its early years the ball was simply an elaborate party, beginning in 1900 each ball had a specific historic theme, often derived from an ancient text or inspired by an “exotic” foreign culture, around which various contests were arranged.  With the addition of a theme the balls became more elaborate often turning debaucherous, romping affairs with guests soon discarding the period costumes that they were required to wear to gain entrance.   The nudity, dancing and merrymaking often continued into the wee hours, the ball usually ending, with a shout of “Vive les Quat’z’ Arts!”, around seven o’clock in the morning, followed by a procession through the Latin Quarter, a romp around the Louvre, and a march over the Pont du Carrousel to the Théâtre de l’Odéon, where the partygoers would disband.  Not surprisingly The Bal des Quat’z’ Arts quickly became one of the premier events of the summer season.  The invitations which had to be handed over at the door were in elaborately designed to match the spectacle of the events, and correspondingly were often thematically orientalist, exotic, or primitive, with overtly erotic and sexual imagery. They are a tour de force of the evolution of artistic style, showing the progress from Art Nouveau to modernist primitivism, up through psychedelic design.  The invitation’s here all have their perforated ticket (in one example, detatched but present) and include the following years: 1912, 1917, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 (two variants), 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950 (two variants), 1951, (three variants), 1952, 1953 (two variants), 1954 (two variants), 1955, and 1956.   All in at least very good condition.  A remarkable collection.


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