Return to the new portrait of Charpentier
Otto Eckle's report on the
watercolor portraits at Frankfurt am Main
Visit 'Manskopfsche Sammlung,' 15. 11. 2005
Portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier (Sig. S36 G12881)
After a telephone call this morning, Frau Dr. Kerstin (Head of the music
department of the University Library) was already informed and nicely prepared
for my visit. To make sure we had the maximum chance of finding all similar
portraits of French 17th century composers, we examined together the whole
collection once again. The Manskopf collection uses a special numbering system,
so that all the colored pictures out of the 8000 could be quickly identified.
The only pictures in the collection, similar to the known Charpentier's
portrait, are those of Henry Du Mont (Sig. S36 G14013) and Michel Lambert (Sig.
S36 G13270). To make absolutely sure, I had prepared a list of about 50 of the
most famous 17th century French composers, so that I could compare this list
with all the Manskopf data in the electronic system. No additional portrait
could be found.
So we concentrated on these three portraits.
Visually, they all are mainly the same size. The exact data provided by the
electronic catalog shows that the three portraits differ slightly in size: Du
Mont: 27.5 cm x 36.8 cm; Lambert: 28 cm x 38.5 cm; Charpentier, 26.8 cm. x 38
cm. All are glued to pieces of light cardboard of the same quality, but only on
two or three edges, so that one could look behind and hold the picture up to the
The paper of the pictures has a weight of more than 120 grams per square meter.
The paper is as thick as the expensive watercolor paper we can buy today. It is
a yellowish beige in color. On the back there is no sign, letter or word. The
paper is quite weak from age.
The screen in the paper-maker's mould created its distinctive pattern to the
paper sheets. In the direction that amounts to the "warp," about ten filaments
(or wires ) per centimeter could be counted, while in direction of the "weft"
there a stronger filament (or wire) can be seen at separations of approximately
4.5 cm. On all three sheets, the "warp" runs from top to bottom, and the "weft"
runs from side to side. All the sheets seem to have been cut by a knife or
The same person wrote the inscriptions across the tops of the portraits. The
information these inscriptions provide ญ for example, the "wrong" name of a city
or the "wrong" birth or death date ญ are possible clues with intrinsic qualities
for the artist who did them, the year they were painted, or the person for whom
they were done:
n้ a ViVionne [sic]
CHARPENTIER musicien n้ A
en 1634 mT 1702
Only the portrait of Lambert is signed. In an
equilateral triangle with a side length of about one cm, J and D
can be seen, close together, a bit stylish, so it seems to be the signature of
the artist. This monogram was done freehand, not stamped. The color used to make
it with a fine brush seems to be the same as the color used for the portrait.
Only the portrait of Lambert is signed. In an equilateral triangle with a side
length of about one cm, J and D can be seen, close together, a
bit stylish, so it seems to be the signature of the artist. This monogram was
done freehand, not stamped. The color used to make it with a fine brush seems to
be the same as the color used for the portrait.
In all three portraits, one sees the subject's
face and collar, down to the breast. Du Mont and Lambert are looking to the
right side of the page, so that one side of the face is more visible than the
other. Charpentier is looking to the left side of the page, likewise causing
more of one side of his face to be shown than the other. Except that the
subjects are not all looking in the same direction, the composition of the
pictures follows the same concept. The brush style and colour show no
significant differences from one portrait to the other, so that all three could
have been done by the same artist.
The identification of the watermarks required special effort. Although not
experienced, I started by making the most accurate possible drawing of the
watermarks, to the original size. Then I reread the explanations in Edward
Heawood, Watermarks, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries (Hilversum,
Holland: Paper Publications Society, 1950). After working for an hour, I had to
stop the examination, in order not to damage the artefacts, because the old
paper was proving to be too weak. To see the watermarks, the light of the table
lamp had to fall through the paper. This was not easy to do and was very
dangerous for the weak old drawings. (Heawood must have encountered similar
difficulties, for his examples are no more complete than my drawings.) But in
the end, it proved to be a successful experience. I understood that Heawood did
nothing but freehand drawings, with all their difficulties, and that his
examples are also based only one single example. Having this in mind, one gets a
realistic estimation about the accuracy of the examples he provided.
But now to the findings about the paper. Although part of it was cut off, the
watermark on the Charpentier drawing could be "AVV ERGNE1742." This mark is
about 15 cm. long, The closest drawing in Heawood is PL. 45, number 246A.
The watermark on Du Mont's portrait seems to be "AUVERGNE1742": the closest
example in Heawood is 243. On the upper part of the sheet bearing Lambert's
portrait, in the middle of the sheet, is a watermark: a cross hanging from a
beaded chain. This is the mark that Heawood calls "Chapelet" (rosary). The cross
is about 2 cm high and 1.5 cm wide. The chain is lying in "weft" direction. The
chain consists of round beads, a bit irregular. This watermark is closest to
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