Colonel Thorn and the Loge

When you’re trying to recreate someone’s life, incidental anecdotes reveal a lot about their personality and their environment. This recount details how Colonel Thorn, not content with his second tier box at the Theatre Italien, was seeking to rent a first tier opera box from the Duc d’Osuma, who had returned to Spain. The first tier would offer higher social status and presumably better visibility. This is very in keeping with all the Colonel’s efforts to be accepted into French society. The Theatre Italien was notoriously diffcult to gain entrance to, if you were a foreigner. Interestingly, Rossini was the director of the theatre from 1820 – 1845 approx, and would explain the Colonel’s commitment to commissioning the Rossini sculpture that caused so much controversy.

These neighborly connections form little networks: for example, both Colonel Thorn and M. Ardoin wrote in inquiring after the Duc d’Osuma’s box, while the Duchesse de Noailles asked about Colonel Thorn’s. Each party knew about the vacant box in the first tier through social connections.

Theatre Italien

Fortunately, Colonel Thorn and M. Ardoin wanted the loge in separate years. Ardoin sat there for the 1839-1840 season, while Col. Thorn wanted it for the 1840-41 season. In August of the same year Colonel Herman Thorn also wrote to ask if he could have the box of the Duc d’Osuna, who had left for Spain the previous spring. Colonel Thorn was an extremely wealthy American who had lived in Paris since 1830, and he believed that “his years of being a subscriber gave him the right to have the preference.” Colonel Thorn does not seem to have officially gotten the Duc d’Osuna’s box in the first tier: his response in September simply says that he will accept the box offered in replacement of his previous one and leaves the matter ambiguous. A letter from the Duchesse de Noailles, however, makes it clear that though Colonel Thorn had a seat in the second tier that season, he was not sitting in it. She wrote in October 1840 saying that she had heard from a friend, M. de Pinieux, that Colonel Thorn’s box in the second tier was available, and asking if she could rent it for the season (but requesting that the administration rent it out to someone else until December 1, when she would return to Paris). Whether the Colonel Thorn took the Duc d’Osuna’s box in the first tier (as Monsieur Ardoin had done the year before), or whether he did not go to the Théâtre Italien after having accepted his seat, the affair reveals networks of subscribers and mechanisms for bolstering status. Monsieur Ardoin, through knowing the Duc Tasena, was able to sit in the Duc d’Osuna’s box. Colonel Thorn wanted the Duc d’Osuna’s box, but didn’t get it, while the Duchesse de Noailles learned through an intermediary, M. de Pinieux, that Colonel Thorn’s box was available and desired to sit in it.

Salle Ventadour – home of Theatre Italien in 1843

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