Jean-Étienne Despréaux

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Jean-Étienne Despréaux
Chantez, dansez, amusez-vous...
Silhouette of Despréaux (1807)
Born31 August 1748
Paris, Kingdom of France
Died26 March 1820(1820-03-26) (aged 71)
Paris, Kingdom of France
OccupationBallet dancer
Spouse(s)Marie-Madeleine Guimard

Jean-Étienne Despréaux (31 August 1748 – 26 March 1820) was a French ballet dancer, choreographer, composer, singer and playwright.[1]


The son of an oboist of the orchestra of the Académie royale de musique, he made here his début in 1763, four years after his brother Claude-Jean-François.

A remarkable dancer for his lightness in the high dance, he was applauded in several ballets :

He retired in 1781 with a 1,000 livres pension and married the famous ballerina Marie-Madeleine Guimard on 14 August 1789.

Charles Maurice, in his Histoire anecdotique du théâtre, writes:

A widower for ten years of la Guimard, Despréaux just died. To his baroque writings I preferred his imitations of dancers, because it was pleasant. From the top of a small theater where the curtain was half down, he introduced on stage the index finger of each hand sporting a tunic, a shirt and shoes which formed small legs. Then, to the sound of ballet music, he performed steps so exactly that the audience recognized the kind and manner of the dancer or ballerina he wanted to remind


Despréaux wrote several parodies of operas that Louis XV particularly appreciated.

He also made the opening prologue for the Théâtre de la Reine [fr] in May 1780.

But he is mostly known as the author of Mes passe-temps : chansons, suivies de l'Art de la danse, poème en quatre chants, calqué sur l'Art poétique de Boileau Despréaux,[2] seminal work for choreography considered as an art in itself, and not as mere entertainment.


  1. ^ He has no family relationship with Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux.
  2. ^ Paris, Defrelle, Petit, 1806, 2 vol. ; 2e éd. Paris, l'Auteur, Petit, 1807 ; 3e éd. Paris, Crapelet, 1809.


  • Jacques-Alphonse Mahul, Annuaire nécrologique, ou Supplément annuel et continuation de toutes les biographies ou dictionnaires historiques, 1e année, 1820, Paris : Baudoin , 1821, (p. 82–83) [1]
  • Émile Campardon, L’Académie royale de musique au XVIIIe, Paris, Berger-Levrault et Cie, 1884, vol. I, (p. 245–247).

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