Houghton Library is home to the distinguished collection of George Chaffee (1907-1984), a dancer, balletophile, and collector. Although he specialized in the French Romantic ballet, some delightful bits of his collection available digitally are a series of illustrations showing “kinderballets” staged in Vienna during the early nineteenth century by Friedrich Horschelt (1793-1876). Horschelt was a ballet master and choreographer who created ballets for a company of children dancers at the Theater an der Wien—until they were outlawed by imperial decree over public concerns about the children’s welfare. This choreographic drawing (ca. 1818) of Horschelt’s Der Berggeist depicts a few of the company’s younger members.
Other illustrations show the children with elaborate props and arranged in visually arresting formations. One of Horschelt’s pupils perhaps pictured was the great ballerina Fanny Ellsler.
The artist seems to have taken some anatomical liberties with this last one.
Thanks to Matthew Wittmann, Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection, for contributing this post. Houghton From Home is a series of posts highlighting our digitized collections. For more items from across the Harvard Library, visit Harvard Digital Collections.