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Marc-Antoine Charpentier masterpage Word-Music Relations masterpage

Read more about Charpentier the man

 (See my Musing of December 2012 about the Du Mont tomb.)

A portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier

A portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier has been found!
And portraits of
Henri Du Mont and Michel Lambert
too!

I am not surprised at receiving a couple of protests that the portraits are fakes. (In neither case, alas, did the writer back up the assertion with a reasoned argument and precise criticisms.) They may well be fakes: I certainly have not ruled out that possibility. However, if the portraits should turn out to be  early-20th-century fakes, this raises a most interesting question for the history of collecting: Why, circa 1900, would a counterfeiter use 18th-century paper to portray 17th-century musicians (!), and tint the portraits with the aqua tones that call to mind the 18th-century? (Why not simply invent  portraits of 18th-century musicians, or adapt existing portraits of 18th-century musicians? In short, why not produce fake 18th-century portraits that would  have sold quite well at a time when Watteau and Boucher and Louis-XV furniture were all the mode?) In the case of the Charpentier portrait, why would a counterfeiter be so attentive as to make the 17th-century portrait he was inventing show the hair-styles, the clothing, and the bodily pose that were in vogue at the time that the personage purportedly sat for his portrait (that is, circa 1690, when Charpentier was in his 50s)? Musicologists surely would appreciate any thoughts on this matter that art historians might be willing to share.  Just send me an e-mail.


An appeal to art historians, librarians and "curieux":

Does the monogram on Michel Lambert's portrait J D in an equilateral triangle ­ mean anything to you?
  "JD" monogram

Do your collections include watercolors similar to the ones shown in this Musing? Have you determined whether they are authentic, or fakes? Do you recognize the three people as appearing in other art works from which these three portraits could have been pirated?

If you can contribute any information, please send me an e-mail. Your contribution will be acknowledged.


The "new" portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier

 

Early in November 2005, I received an e-mail from Otto Eckle of Frankfurt am Main, who recently published an edition of Charpentier's compositions for the dead.

Herr Eckle had been reading my article on Landry's Almanach royal for 1682 and was struck by certain similarities between the features of Landry's "Monsieur Charpentier" and those in a watercolor portrait identified as "M.C Antoine Charpentier" in the Manskopf Collection at the University Library of Frankfurt am Main, which he reproduced in his edition.

Eckle's e-mail left me breathless, for most Carpentarists were unaware that such a portrait existed. Without his enthusiasm and the generous sacrifice of his time, this Musing ― a simple first step toward understanding the Charpentier portrait ― would have been impossible. I therefore thank him heartily, on behalf of all scholars interested in Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Otto Eckle promptly dug deeper into the Manskopf Collection. Having obtained permission to examine the entire collection, he found two additional portraits by this watercolorist: one of Henri Du Mont (the left portrait) and one of Michel Lambert (at the right), neither of which appears to have caught the attention of musicologists.

The portrait of Michel LambertThe portrait of Henri Du Mont

 

 

 

 

Click here to learn more about the Manskopf Collection (Sammlung Manskopf)
(the old links to the three specific portraits no longer function)

Herr Eckle has made available to us a detailed report of his examination of these three watercolors. (Click here to read Otto Eckle's report about the portraits)  I will summarize here his two chief findings:

  • although only one of the three watercolors is signed, all appear to have been made by the same artist
  • all three watercolors are on French paper made in the mid-eighteenth century

In short, unless these watercolors are nineteenth-century fakes, done on old paper, the paintings can be assumed to date from circa 1750.

This Musing addresses the following questions:

Are the three portraits fakes?
Are there similarities? And what do the differences teach us?

Imagined? Or a copy of an existing life-portrait?

The approximate dates of the original portrait of Charpentier and of the Frankfurt copy

Collectors' cabinets

The three watercolors

Titon du Tillet and his
Parnasse François

An appeal to art historians, librarians, and "curieux"

Are the three portraits fakes?

When I learned that the Manskopf Collection has three portraits of French composers for whom no such representation had yet been found, my initial reaction was: "Could these portraits be late-nineteenth-century fakes?" After 1866, when the biographies of Du Mont, Lambert, and Charpentier appeared in Fétis's multi-volume Biographie universelle des musiciens..., these forgotten composers would have attracted the attention of counterfeiters and collectors alike.

The fact that the drawings were made on mid-eighteenth century paper does not rule out fraud. Still, it is very clear that we are not dealing with blank pages cut from some multi-volume folio-sized publication and reused in the nineteenth century for invented portraits of these composers. The paper is heavy artists' paper, of a weight comparable to today's premium watercolor paper. And it is not the white paper used by printers: it is beige, thus providing the artist with a flesh-like ground upon which create his portraits.

Old paper does not suffice to make a fake convincing. If these portraits are fakes, we should therefore be able to discern anachronisms. Or can we find certain details in these Frankfurt portraits suggest that the paintings do in fact date from the mid-eighteenth century? Amateur that I am, I have come to think that the latter is the case; but I welcome contrary opinions and will incorporate them into this Musing.

First, there is the handwriting used to identify the three musicians.


 
Inscription across the top of the Charpentier portrait

Very common in engraved eighteenth-century music books, it appears in all its splendor in Dupuit's Principes pour toucher de la viele of 1741 (which was published just a year or so prior to the fabrication of the paper used for the three portraits). When used by an apprentice or by someone not trained in calligraphy, this script could quickly take on the amateur tinge seen in the inscription about Marc-Antoine Charpentier, and in Pierre Dupont's Principes de Musique par demande et par reponce in 1718, where a few pages clearly were engraved by a novice:

1718: a passage from Dupont's method

Then there is the content of the inscriptions across the top of each portrait. The erroneous dates about Marc-Antoine Charpentier (see the illustration, above) clearly were gleaned from one of the early editions of Titon du Tillet's Parnasse François, either 1727 or 1732. Although the identification of Michel Lambert is truncated ­ "Lambert, Michel, born at ViVionne [sic] in 1610" ­ this information likewise came from one of these early editions of Titon. The minimal information on the depiction of Henri Du Mont raises a question that cannot be answered with certainty: Why only Du Mont's last and first names, sans the dates provided by the biography of him that Titon added to his Parnasse in 1732?

There are also the hair styles and the clothing. We shall see below that each of the three men ― painted in his early-to-mid fifties, as were so many sitters of the period ― is wearing the type of coiffure and collar that were in fashion at the time. (A determined counterfeiter could, of course, refer to engravings made when the musician was fifty or fifty-five years old, and dress his invented personages like the images he had consulted.)

Finally, the watercolor technique in the three portraits was firmly established by the first decade of the eighteenth century, and it typified French watercolor painting until the innovations of the late-eighteenth century. For example, not long before his death in 1711, Berain used this technique in designs for a revival of Thésée (see Jérôme de la Gorce, Berain, dessinateur du Roi Soleil (Paris, 1986), p. 98.

Although the colors are different, in Berain, as in the Frankfurt watercolors, thin washes of color add relief and shadows to a drawing. (It cannot, of course, be ruled out that a clever nineteenth-century forger could have imitated this watercolor style.

As for anachronisms, I have not found details that ring false and that might suggest that Herr Manskopf of Frankfurt am Main was duped by a bouquiniste or by a shady print-dealer, and purchased three recently made fakes.

In the absence of scientific analyses of the pigments used for the three portraits, to determine whether the portraits are authentic or fakes, this Musing assumes that the portraits do in fact date from the mid-eighteenth century. Categorical assertions about the these images are nonetheless inappropriate at this time. I therefore restrict myself to a few thoughts about why these presumably mid-eighteenth-century portraits may have been made, plus some reflections on the portrait identified as representing Marc-Antoine Charpentier.


Are there similarities? And what do the differences teach us?

When they see the "new" portrait of Charpentier for the first time, people tend to compare it with Landry's very schematic representation of a composer named Charpentier.

For the sake of comparison, let's assume that these two images do indeed represent Marc-Antoine Charpentier. In fact, let's compare the two images in black and white, with the Frankfurt portrait tilted to match the engraving. Can common traits be discerned? And what might differences between the two depictions tell us?

Facial features

Landry's engravingThe Frankfurt portrait, tilted and in black and white

Both faces have a long slender nose, arched eyebrows, a chin with a deep cleft, and a relatively small mouth with clearly defined lips shaped like Cupid's bow, or like a rosebud. (Both men have luxuriant, curling locks; but since those curls may be a wig, I am excluding the hair from the comparison.) The man in the Almanac for 1682 appears to be in radiant health and in his late thirties. (Marc-Antoine Charpentier would have celebrated his thirty-eighth birthday the summer before the Almanac was engraved.) Charpentier's jaw line

The Frankfurt portrait depicts a man in his mid-to-late fifties, a tired man who perhaps never totally recovered from his lengthy illness of 1683.

This estimate of Charpentier's age is based primarily on the fact that jowls are beginning to blur his jaw-line, a sign of aging that is rarely seen in people under fifty-five. The lines around his mouth and nose likewise are of the sort that tend to appear around the time of one's fiftieth birthday.

Fashion

The men in the two images are dressed rather differently. The man in the Almanac wears the big bow (usually a red one) known as a "cravatte," and the lacy jabot that was de rigueur at court circa 1680. The man in the Frankfurt portrait wears the more sober sort of collar favored by the lower clergy, royal ministers, and elite merchants.

Landry's personage boasts the thin moustache that was more or less ubiquitous until the late 1680s, when Louis XIV abandoned his. By contrast, the man in the Frankfurt watercolor is clean-shaven ― like the King, and like most of the elegant Frenchmen depicted in paintings and engravings from the late 1680s and the 1690s. Together, the clean-shaven face and the sagging jaw-line suggest that the original life-portrait that inspired the watercolor was made in the early 1690s. In both representations Charpentier's hair (or his wig) also suggests the 1680s and 1690s, when men no longer wore bangs over their forehead, as they had during the 1660s, and had not yet adopted the double-humped wigs that became fashionable during the final decades of the reign.

There has been considerable discussion about whether the person in Landry's Almanac is Marc-Antoine Charpentier, and if so, whether the engraver really attempted to capture his likeness. Among these discussions is my "Un Portrait présumé de Marc-Antoine Charpentier,"in Marc-Antoine Charpentier, un musicien retrouvé, assembled and edited by Catherine Cessac (Sprimont: Mardaga/Centre Musique Baroque de Versailles, 2005), and my discussion of Moliere's portrait and Landry's portrait of Charpentier. Some scholars have understandably been skeptical. Indeed, I have been no more satisfied than they regarding the vagueness of the Landry depiction. For example, in "Un Portrait présumé" I wrote: "Si, par miracle, nous nous trouvions un jour dans le Paris du roi Soleil, reconnaîtrions-nous le sieur Charpentier si nous venions à le croiser dans la rue? Ce n'est pas sûr" (p. 23). I nonetheless hazarded a guess about what Landry's "Monsieur Charpentier" looked like (p. 22): "Il avait le front assez haut, les sourcils modérément épais, le menton accusé et légèrement fendu, le nez long sans être aquilin, le bout un peu charnu. Sa bouche était un peu plus large que celle du dauphin" ­ who was usually portrayed with a bow-like, rosebud mouth.

This could have been written about the man in the Frankfurt portrait!

Although we now have a portrait identified as Marc-Antoine Charpentier, and although this new portrait resembles one in the Almanac in many ways, a word of caution about comparing the two representations. Long noses, deep dimples, arched brows and rose-bud mouths are shaky evidence upon which to compare images preserved in two distinctly different genres, the popular engraved almanac, and the studio portrait as copied by another artist.

I refer readers to Maxime Préaud's "Le nez du maréchal de Turenne," in Visages du Grand Siècle, le portrait français sous le règne de Louis XIV (Paris, 1997), pp. 190-95, 275-76. Préaud points out that in Poussin's paintings (and he doubtlessly would say the same about popular almanacs) ― "un visage peint n'est ... pas toujours un portrait." Indeed, he continues, it can be more of a "type," rather than an actual representation of a specific physiognomy. Préaud then compares how a given individual's nose is represented in one or another life-portrait. Arguing that these differences do not result from the artist's inability to represent the individual accurately, and that they should not be chalked up to the artist's individual style, his conclusion is both witty and wise ― and it helps us understand the two representations of Charpentier:

Faut-il alors accepter qu'il n'y ait dans chacun de ces portraits qu'un pourcentage de parties exactement ressemblantes suffisant pour que son modèle s'y reconnaisse et que ses amis l'y retrouvent? Ou bien que, fidèle ou pas, l'idée qu'il s'agisse d'un portrait déclaré soit satisfaisante en elle-même, quitte à ce que le modèle fasse l'effort de ressembler à son image? Ou encore que l'image du modèle ne soit pas celle d'un seul portrait mais de tous ses portraits à la fois, virtuellement superposés, comme les brouillons ou les épreuves d'état sont constitutifs de l'oeuvre terminée? Je n'ai pas de réponse certaine. Je sais seulement qu'il y a des jours où, me regardant dans la glace, je trouve que je ne me ressemble pas beaucoup.

The lesson to be learned from Préaud's argument is clear. Both images represent Charpentier, even though the one or the other ― or both ― may not be good likenesses. Still, a representation presumably has enough recognizable traits for the model and his friends to recognize the person being depicted. (Yet we all remember coming upon portraits where the sitter's identity is absolutely certain, but where the portrait scarcely resembles the person depicted.)

In short, prudence warns us not to jump to conclusions, simply on the basis of a long nose, rosebud lips, or a deep dimple. These are, however, the traits that the two pictures of Monsieur Charpentier have in common. Are they then the "recognizable traits" in two different attempts to portray the same individual? To borrow Préaud's imagery, when superimposed in the mind's eye, do these more or less "recognizable traits" constitute for us ― as they presumably did for seventeenth- (and eighteenth-) century music lovers ― a "virtual portrait" of Marc-Antoine Charpentier? (In addition to Préaud's illustrations of Turenne, see these webpages that provide multiple portraits of a given individual: the multiple images of "The Face of Bach," http://www.npj.com/thefaceofbach/ , and the four portraits of "La Fontaine, le poète galant," http://www.nocesdencre.ch/noces/lafontaine_auteur.shtml )

Imagined? Or a copy of an existing life-portrait?

Painted several decades after Marc-Antoine Charpentier's death, is this watercolor the product of someone's imagination? Was it copied from an existing portrait of the composer? Is there evidence that Marc-Antoine Charpentier ever had his portrait painted?

The Rigaud false track

Back in 1919, Jean Roman edited the livre de raison kept by portraitist Hyacinthe Rigaud starting in 1681: Le livre de raison de Hyacinthe Rigaud (Paris: Laurens, 1919). Determined to identify as many of Rigaud's sitters as possible, Roman clearly pored over published sources such as the Mercure Galant and Titon du Tillet's Parnasse François. For 1681 (p. 1), Roman was confronted by two entries involving "Monsr Charpentier" ­ a person, or persons, for whom Rigaud had provided no first name or title. Deciding that two sitters must be involved, Roman identified the first as the academician François Charpentier, and the second as "Marc-Antoine Charpentier, musicien, intendant de musique du duc d'Orléans, 1634-1702."

In other words, like the individual who identified the watercolor portrait of Charpentier, Roman referred to either the 1727 or 1732 edition of Titon du Tillet's Parnasse, selecting a few words here and a few words there. The result is especially misleading, because it suggests that, in 1681, Charpentier was the intendant of the music of Philippe d'Orléans, that is, he held a position in the household of Louis XIV's brother. (Titon's biography of Charpentier was, however, very clear on that point: the "Duke of Orléans" to whom he refers was the late Philippe's son who, as Duke of Chartres, had studied composition with Charpentier in the early 1690s: "Monseigneur le Duc d'Orléans [a title he assumed upon the death of his father in 1701], petit-fils de France, apprit la composition de lui & le fit intendant de sa Musique." Louis XIV and his brother Philippe were "fils de France," while Philippe's son was a "petit-fils de France," that is, the grandson of a king, not the son.)

Not only did Roman incorporate distortions of the available evidence into his footnote about Marc-Antoine Charpentier, he apparently jumped to conclusions when identifying the individuals to whom Rigaud was referring in his entries about "Monsr Charpentier." First of all, it is not at all clear that Rigaud had two different clients named Charpentier in 1681. Could he not have been referring to two portraits of the same sitter? And is it not likely that "Monsr Charpentier" belonged to the same social circle as Rigaud's other early patrons?

Indeed, Roman himself observed that, during Rigaud's first years in Paris, most of his clients came from the Robe, that is, people holding offices in the sovereign courts of Paris: "En 1680 Rigaud arrive à Paris déjà précédé d'une certaine réputation, et dès 1681 il peint dix-huit portraits de bourgeois, d'artistes, de financiers, de conseillers à la cour [read: "chambre"] des comptes ou [la cour] des aides" (p. xiv). In short, this Charpentier (or these Charpentiers?) probably belonged to this robe circle: the chambre des comptes, the cour des aides, or the Parlement. A decade ago, while trying to establish a family link between Marc-Antoine and some powerful robe Charpentiers, I focused on the descendants of Fiacre Charpentier, a Parisian merchant of the late sixteenth century. My notes show that, in 1680, one of Fiacre's descendants, Louis Charpentier (d. 1724), acquired the office of "auditeur des comptes" ― a position in the selfsame chambre des comptes to which Roman alluded. Here is someone from the very milieu that Roman identified as producing Rigaud's first patrons; and here is a man who in 1681 had every reason to commemorate his new office by having himself painted in his splendid new robes. (And perhaps re-painted in a different pose and format?)

Roman's error acquired a life of its own. Unbeknownst to musicologists, it was periodically cited by art historians. In fact, this old myth about Marc-Antoine Charpentier has resurfaced in a recent book on Rigaud! So once again the tale of a lost Rigaud portrait of Charpentier is making the rounds.

The Charpentier family portraits

On the other hand, we know for certain that Marc-Antoine's sister, Étiennette Charpentier, owned several family portraits in 1709. The scellé of her apartment (AN, Y10830, March 22, 1709), made immediately after her death, states that her bedroom contained "un tableau de famille dans une bordure et autre tableau de famille sans bordure." The fact that neither of these "tableaux" is mentioned in the inventory of her possessions, confirms that these were indeed family portraits and were consequently turned over to her heirs without being listed by the notary. It is, of course, impossible to say which family members were depicted in the two portraits. Nor can we determine whether each portrait showed only one individual, or whether one or both were group portraits that depicted, for example, the Charpentier siblings and/or their parents. (For family portraits, see Annik Pardailhé-Galabrun, La Naissance de l'intime, Paris, 1988, pp. 386-87.)

The will of Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (the sister of a Guise musician and Charpentier's neighbor at the Palais in the 1690s), suggests that it was not unusual for families of the Jacquets' and the Charpentiers' social level to commission portraits of family members. Élisabeth willed at least seven portraits to a La Guerre cousin, while a Jacquet heir received a pair of portraits depicting Élisabeth and her father (Catherine Cessac, Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, Actes-Sud, 1995, p. 174).

In sum, a portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier may have hung in Étiennette Charpentier's bedroom, and may subsequently have been passed to one of her heirs ­ doubtlessly her printer nephew, Jacques Édouard, who inherited Marc-Antoine Charpentier's autograph manuscripts.

The approximate dates of the original portrait of Charpentier and of the Frankfurt copy

Together, Charpentier's drawn features, his incipient wrinkles, his sagging jowls, and his clean-shaven face suggest that he sat for his portrait in the mid-1690s. At the time he was music master for the Jesuits. But he was something else, something far more important: 1692 and 1693 had been a special moment in his career, for he had not only taught composition to the king's nephew, Philippe Duke of Chartres, he had also been selected to compose an opera, Médée, for the Royal Academy of Music. In short, it is tempting to imagine a portrait being painted to commemorate these years of glory and recognition.

The Frankfurt watercolor would, of course, have been made some five decades later, in the mid-eighteenth century. (In view of the concern for authenticity that drove collectors at that time, it presumably was done after an existing portrait.) The paper is undeniably French: one watermark is a "chapelet," and the others read "Auvergne1742." (For details, see Otto Eckle's report.) I want to make it perfectly clear that Otto Eckle's interpretation of the watermarks should not be seen as influenced in any way by Heawood's examples. Immediately after his inspection of the portraits, he described the watermarks to me in considerable detail, and I realized immediately that the paper dated from the eighteenth-century. I therefore asked him to compare his sketches with Heawood's examples, so that researchers would have models for comparison should they come upon similar watercolor portraits. I also want to point out that "1742," does not indicate the exact year when the paper was made, because paper-makers did not change their sieves all that often. Rather, it proves that the paper was made after the royal order promulgated in 1741 that obliged paper mills to add a date to their watermarks. That these three watercolor portraits were done in the mid-eighteenth century is especially revealing, for as Annik Pardailhé-Galabrun observed in La Naissance de l'intime (Paris: 1988), p. 386, "C'est au siècle des Lumières que la mode du portrait prend un grand essor ...."

The subjects of the portraits are identified, perhaps by the artist, perhaps by the individual who commissioned the paintings. For Charpentier, the inscription reads:

CHARPENTIER, M.C Antoine musicien né A PARIS en 1634 mT 1702

Inscription across the top of the Charpentier portrait

This text clearly was based upon Titon du Tillet's biography of Marc-Antoine Charpentier in Le Parnasse Françoise of 1727:

CHARPENTIER, Musicien

Marc-Antoine, Parisien, Maître de Musique de la Sainte Chapelle de Paris où il a été enterré, étant mort au mois de mars 1702, âgé de 68 ans.

­ a combination of errors that, thanks to some simple arithmetic, resulted in the erroneous birthdate of 1634.

At some point ­ apparently between 1887 and 1893, while he was in Paris, Lyon, and London ­ Friedrich Nicolas Manskopf (1869-1928), a native of Frankfurt am Main, acquired these three watercolors for his collection of documents and objects related to the history of the theater and of music. Upon his return to Frankfurt in 1893, Manskopf created a museum in his private residence. By his will, the Sammlung Manskopf became the property of the city of Frankfurt, and since 1947 it has been a part of the collections of the library of the University of Frankfurt. (For more about Friedrich Nicolas Manskopf and his collection, see http://manskopf.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/cgi-bin/uebersicht.rb) I am especially grateful to the university for allowing me to show the three French portraits on my personal site.

Collector's cabinets

It is ironic that these three portraits ― which probably were made for the cabinet of a mid-eighteenth-century collector ­ ended up in the private museum of a late-nineteenth-century collector. That is, Herr Manskopf seems to have been repeating the project of an unidentified collector who, almost a century earlier, had assembled a gallery of famous people.

Indeed, the discovery, in the Manskopf Collection, of three watercolor portraits by the same artist, strongly suggests that the depiction of Marc-Antoine Charpentier was destined for what was known as a "gallery of illustrious men" (a category that, as Titon du Tillet demonstrated in his Parnasse François, could include women) ­ most likely a portrait gallery commissioned by a "curieux" who collected French music. A curieux along the lines of Louis-Denis Seguin (see my "Quelques ajouts au corpus Charpentier, in Marc-Antoine Charpentier, un musicien retrouvé), who died in 1736, roughly a decade before the paper used for the Frankfurt drawings was manufactured. Or along the lines of Gabriel-Vincent Thévenard, who died in 1741 and whose collection is described by Albert Cohen, "'Un Cabinet de Musique,' The Library of an Eighteenth-Century Musician," Notes, 59 (2002), pp. 20-37.

The hand-done monogram on the portrait of Michel Lambert ― the letters JD inside an equilateral triangle ― almost certainly provides a clue to the identity of either the painter or the collector. That is to say, Otto Eckle describes the monogram as done with a fine brush, and "the color used to make it ... seems to be the same as the color used for the portrait."  In the 1999 edition of E. Bénézit's Dictionnaire critique ... des peintres, sculpteurs [etc.], no such monogram appears among the artists whose family name begins with D; nor is it to be found among the monograms of unidentified artists that begin with J. (A page-by-page search through all seven volumes failed to locate this mark.) Nor is the monogram one of the collector's marks reproduced in Frits Lugt, Les Marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes and its Supplément, both published at The Hague in 1956.

Until further research permits this monogram to be identified, we cannot go beyond the broader context of the world of French collectors (curieux) into which Antoine Schnapper provides such precious insights.

Chapter 3 of Schapper's Le Géant, la licorne et la tulipe (Paris: Flammarion, 1988) sketches the broader context within which the Frankfurt watercolors were almost certainly made. Many collectors, he reports, went to considerable lengths to ferret out authentic representations of the creative people whose works graced their cabinets. They would pay to have these portraits copied, and would either hang them on the walls of their cabinet or keep them in folders, in hope that by contemplating the facial features and expressions of these geniuses, they would better understand the works in their collection.

Authenticity was the watchword, for a serious collector frowned upon invented portraits. (That did not, of course, guarantee that the collector would not be duped by the people he hired to track down and copy these portraits.) This concern for authenticity suggests that the Frankfurt watercolors were based upon portraits done during the composers' lifetimes, and that the unidentified eighteenth-century copyist tried to capture the sitters' features as accurately as possible.

There must be more of these watercolor portraits somewhere, tucked away in libraries, museums, or private collections! For example, Marcelle Benoit's Dictionnaire de la musique en France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle (p. 188), reproduces a watercolor portrait of François Couperin le Grand in a plumed hat, from the collection of André Meyer, now part of the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. (I have requested information  about the paper and about the degree to which the tints of this watercolor portrait resemble those used for the three portraits at Frankfurt.) Although the Couperin picture appears to have been made by a different artist than the three Frankfurt watercolors, was it destined for the same collector? Or for another Parisian music-lover who was busily assembling a portrait gallery of illustrious artists? If more such portraits can be found, we will be begin to understand the precise nature of the portrait gallery where Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Henri Du Mont, and Michel Lambert rubbed shoulders with other "illustres."

Some quotes from Schapper himself: " .... tous les cabinets érudits ... sont associés, voire intégrés à des bibliothèques. Les portraits historiques font partie de leur décor, ..." (p. 122). "Mais le décor le plus typique des bibliothèques, ce sont les portraits de grands hommes, et pas seulement d'hommes de lettres. ... Gabriel Naudé (1627) donne quelques conseils sur ce point: ... on préférera de bonnes copies des portraits des grands écrivains, qui permetront de 'juger en mesme temps de l'esprit des Autheurs par leurs livres, & de leur corps, figure & physiognomie par ces tableaux d'images, lesquelles jointes aux discours que plusieurs ont fait de leur vie [in this case, the biographies in Titon du Tillet's Parnasse Françoise], servent a mon advis d'un puissant esguillon pour exciter une ame généreuse & bien née à suivre leurs pistes' " (pp. 123-24). As Schnapper observes, such galleries were not limited to the early-modern period: they continued well into the twentieth century. (In other words, off in Frankfurt am Main, Manskopf was constituting a gallery of great men analogous to the one created by our unidentified eighteenth-century connoisseur, who cabinet, ironically, provided Manskopf with several images!) "L'attrait principal d'un portrait 'historique'," continues Schapper, "est en effet toujours sa fidélité, vraie ou supposée, sa ressemblance, ce qui n'exclut pas le plaisir esthétique quand on peut se procurer un tableau d'un bon peintre" (p. 125). He also points out that, in the early eighteenth century, as engraved portraits became numerous, a divide occurred between collectors who wanted quality and collectors who were inspired by history. The former argued that one should collect only the very best portraits; the latter were exemplified by Gaignières. "Cette préoccupation esthétique est évidemment contraire à celle du véritable collectionneur de portraits historiques, désireux de connaître les traits des héros et pour qui la qualité n'est qu'un charme occasionnel supplémentaire" (p. 130).

The three watercolors

The three Frankfurt watercolors appear to have been done by the same artist whose initials may be "JD."

The three portraits differ considerably from one another in certain intriguing ways. These differences may constitute an important clue. Do they suggest that the collector managed to locate three seventeenth-century portraits done by different painters, and that he hired a watercolorist to copy them?

That is to say, the watercolorist's quite distinctive style lies superimposed upon the portraits, like a tinted transparent overlay. The three portraits clearly were painted with the same small group of pigments: indigo blue, wine red, brown, black, and a few white highlights ― all washed onto heavy beige art paper. Owing to this common palette, and to the overarching style of the copyist, the three portraits at first glance are deceptively homogeneous. They call to mind a series of portraits painted from photographs by a given commercial artist who never came face to face with the subjects.

However, beneath this overlay, one can discern three distinct approaches to portraiture ­ approaches that seem to span several decades of the seventeenth century. One can almost see the copyist struggling to capture the style of the disparate originals, Henri Dumontso that none of the elements that constituted the composer's "esprit" would be lost. For example, the original portrait of Henri Du Mont conveys considerable depth by the gently graded shading of the features,  as in a sculptured bust. Indeed, his hair is shaped into sculptured, mop-like strands. (Was this watercolor based upon the bust that decorated Du Mont's tomb at the Church of Saint-Paul?) (See my Musing of December 2012 about the Du Mont tomb.)

The sitter seems to be in his early fifties: despite the frown lines and the lines running down from his nose, his jaw-line remains firm. This would suggest that the original represented the man at his prime, that is, around 1660, rather than the man at the time of his death at seventy-four. And indeed, although Du Mont's collar belongs to no particular style, the bangs over his forehead were in style during the early 1660s. In short, despite a rather archaic approach that makes the representation look like some of the portraits painted earlier in the century, the portrait appears to depict Du Mont in the late 1650s or around 1660.

Michel Lambert

 

 

By contrast, the artist who painted the original of Michel Lambert's portrait did little to model the features, and he avoided the strong contrasts of chiaroscuro. Indeed, Lambert's face is almost as flat as it would be in a bas-relief. Nor is his hair sculpted: it is wispy and cloudlike. Lambert's unfurrowed features suggest that the original was painted while he was approximately fifty ― that is, circa 1660. The goatee and the thin moustache support this dating, as do the bangs across his forehead and the pompons dangling from his collar. Marc-Antoine Charpentier

 

Finally, there is the highly-sculpted portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier, whose nose and chin rise like craggy peaks above the forehead and the hollow cheeks, and whose luxuriant curls hang down in thick sausage-like masses. I have proposed, above, that the original of this portrait was painted in the early 1690s. And indeed, Charpentier's coiffure became stylish in the early 1680s (it was quite new when Landry's Almanac was engraved) and continued to be the dominant style until the late 1690s, when a wig with a hump on each side of the central part came into fashion.

 

 


Titon du Tillet and his Parnasse François

We saw that the watercolor portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier bears information gleaned from Évrard Titon du Tillet's Parnasse François of 1727 (or perhaps of 1732). Although Titon was a collector, the art works on display in his residence ― and those described in Jean-Baptiste Titon's inventory of 1768 ― were mainly high-quality oil paintings. (See Édmond Bonaffé, Dictionnaire des amateurs français au XVIIe siècle, Paris, 1884, pp. 305-307; and Valérie Lavergne-Duray, "Les Titon, mécenès et collectionneurs à Paris ...," Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français, 1989, pp. 72-103.)

Titon does not appear to have commissioned watercolor copies of the illustrious musicians and poets who peopled his Parnassus. [I am adding an afterthought here, in green: Titon was a stickler for accuracy. Edition after edition, he corrected factual errors in his Parnasse; and between editions, he would correct errors in his own hand. It is therefore quite implausible that Titon himself would have marked the following errors on watercolors belonging to him (or would have refrained from correcting errors inscribed on the portraits by someone else):

   Charpentier's death date, "1702," which Titon corrected with his own hand in several surviving copies of his Parnasse;
—    the misspelling of Lambert's supposed birthplace: "ViVionne," rather than "Vivonne."
—    And why, on the Du Mont portrait, would he neglect to add the dates and places from his own article on that composer, added to the 1732 edition of his Parnasse? Indeed, the 1732 edition preceded by a full decade the manufacture of the piece of paper on which that particular portrait was painted!]

He did, however, manage to locate the portraits of a few of these individuals, and he presumably dispatched the sculptor to sketch them. Like every serious collector, Titon refused to create a portrait if one did not exist. Thus the representations on his Parnassus were done, he asserted, "d'après les Portraits qui en sont restés" (1727: p. 6). In other words, although Titon clearly paid a visit Marc-Antoine Charpentier's book-seller nephew in 1726 (see my "Titon du Tillet, le premier 'biographe' de Marc-Antoine Charpentier, in Marc-Antoine Charpentier, un musicien retrouvé), if a portrait of his uncle was in fact hanging in Jacques Édouard's lodgings, he either did not inform Titon, or else Titon decided against having a medallion made and attached to the sculpture of Parnassus, which had already been cast. In any event, all this happened two decades prior to the manufacture of the paper used for the the Frankfurt portraits.


I repeat the above appeal to art historians, librarians and "curieux":

Does the monogram on Michel Lambert's portrait J D in an equilateral triangle mean anything to you?
 "JD" monogram

Do your collections include watercolors, paintings or engravings similar to the ones shown in this Musing?

If you can contribute any information, please send me an e-mail. Your contribution will be acknowledged.

What fun it would be to re-create that eighteenth-century gallery!

For the pages about Otto Eckle annexed to this page, see:
Eckle's edition           Eckle's report