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This engraving is from the “Ballet de la Délivrance de Renaud”, published in 1617 by Pierre Ballard, currently in the collection of the British Museum. The print was made by Daniel Rabel [1]. The dance and music composed by Pierre Guédron for the French king Louis XIII, is a masterpiece from the early 17th century court ballets. The ballet’s source, in cantos from Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), celebrates the return of the hero, Renaud, from Crusading armies in Palestine in the eleventh century and the end of his love affair with a “powerful Muslim sorceress . . . a comic character, danced and sung by a man en travesti”. Illustrations of the enchantress in this facsimile include some of the finest, extant representations of a seventeenth-centurytravesti role in ballet de cour [2]. The 9th plate shows Armide, the other important role in this ballet, amidst demons in the form of lobsters, tortoises, and two snails [3].


The snails are symmetrically positioned, one sinistral and one dextral, the animals with two tentacles and an eye-spot. The shells have one spiral band in the colour pattern; they may have been inspired by a Cepaea species, but this remains speculative.

[1] BML, inv. PD I.7.93. http://to.ly/DFHU.
[2] http://to.ly/DFGs.
[3] http://operabaroque.fr/GUEDRON_RENAUD.htm.