May: May I Have This Dance?


May is a time for frolicking! We’re ready to join in the springtime fun with this gallery of dance-themed and music-themed images from our collection.

Scroll down to discover more about each image.

A Tragic Ballet. Shortly after the premiere of composer Jules Massenet’s opera Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, Massenet also premiered the ballet Cigale (French for “Grasshopper”). The ballet reimagines the fable of the grasshopper and the ant, casting the grasshopper as a kind entertainer whom the ant ruthlessly leaves to perish in the snow.

Maurice Leloir, Poster for Massenet’s Cigale (1904).

Take a Bow. The vielle was a popular stringed instrument in Medieval Europe, used frequently by jongleurs and troubadours. A forebear of the violin, its name is closely related to the word “fiddle.”


Manuscript Minstrel. A vielle sits at the foot of the Virgin Mary in this 13th-century manuscript illumination – the first-ever depiction of the Juggler of Notre Dame.

Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Arsenal 3516, fol. 127r .

On the Airwaves. During the Golden Age of American Radio (ca. 1930 through 1950), families could use cathedral radios to tune in to their favorite programs together. Radio listeners during this Golden Age might have heard several radio adaptations of the juggler’s story, which often played around Christmastime.

Photograph by Joe Mills.

Medievalesque Melodies. In this joyful scene, a minstrel with a bowed instrument accompanies a knight as he celebrates the birth of his child. The postcard is the final in a series of cards drawn by French artist Malatesta (see another postcard in the series here).