Panat in postcardThe Ranums'

Panat Times

Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



Musical Rhetoric

Transcribed Sources


Music's fate in the Te Deum of February 8, 1687

On February 7, 1687, the anonymous author of the "Lettres historiques et anecdotiques" [B.N., ms. fr. 10265] wrote: "Mr Le Brun, peintre du Roy, fera chanter samedy au RRPP de l'Oratoire, un Te Deum en action de graces de la santé du Roy. Le Pere Soënen y prononcera un tres beau panegyrique. La decoration y sera magnifique, et la musique la meilleure de toutes celles que l'on ait encore entendues."

The Academicians' hierarchy of priorities

This announcement suggests the priorities of the members of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture who were organizing the fête. The event — organized by Charles Le Brun, first painter of the king and chancellor of the Academy — would praise Louis XIV through paintings about his glorious actions. The Academy therefore chose "les plus habiles peintres de l'Académie ... pour faire neuf grands tableaux et vingt-quatre bas-reliefs qui devoient représenter les principales actions de Sa Majesté." The iconography of these paintings was mirrored in the panegyric, for Father Soanem "parla sur les actions du roy représentées dans chaque tableau." The church of the Oratoire would, of course, be given the lavish decoration that was de rigueur at such events: "L'église estoit tendue de riches tapisseries ... et une grande illumination." Since the event was a Te Deum, the public would be treated to "the best of all music heard until now": "Mr Charpentier, qui a apris la musique à Rome sous le Charissimi, estimé le meilleur maistre d'Italie, fut employé pour travailler à cette feste." (For the descriptions in which these statements appear, refer to the Fugitive Piece itemizing the costs of the Te Deum where this same hierarchy of priorities — summarized in this graph — can be discerned.)

graph of Te-Deum costs

What does this graph tell us about the Academy's priorities? The red, green, yellow and brown segments constitute that portion of the total budget that was devoted to decoration — that is, to the visual. The two blue sections represent costs for what we would call "crowd control" (Swiss guards, a "barrier" to keep the crowd in order and "tickets") and for workmen whose activities are not specified in the financial account. The magenta segment represents the expenditures for the audible portion of the service: 350 livres paid to Marc-Antoine Charpentier in return for his services as "maître de musique." Music's position near the bottom of the hierarchy should come as no surprise. For, as the canons of the Sainte-Chapelle pointed out in a lawsuit they were then conducting against their music master, François Chapperon, "la Musique n'est pas de l'essence du service qui se fait à l'Église, elle est seulement de bienséance et de solemnité." [Brenet, Musiciens de la Sainte-Chapelle, 1910, p. 244]

Since the Academy's financial account does not mention payments to the musicians who participated in the Te Deum, it is clear that Charpentier did not expect to pocket the entire sum. Since we are not sure that this particular Te Deum has survived, the number of musicians hired is pure guesswork. The Plan Turgot reveals that the church of the Oratoire is about two-thirds the size of the church of the Feuillants, where Lully assembled "500 musicians" for the Te Deum he had offered Louis XIV a few weeks earlier [Mercure Galant, Jan. 1687, p. 264]  Dare we conclude that, in an attempt to rival Lully, Charpentier assembled two-thirds of that number: 325 musicians more or less? Surely not: the wages of such an ensemble would have totaled approximately 975 livres — almost three times the amount that Charpentier received from the Academy of Painting. (These calculations are based on the fact that each of the extraordinary musicians who performed in Chapperon's Te Deum of 1682 received 3 livres.) [Brenet, p. 246] Since the Gazette de France informs us that Charpentier's Te Deum of February 9, 1687, involved "de chœurs de musique," and since we know that an earlier Te Deum (H. 145) and Exaudiat (H. 162) require a minimum of 29 performers, we know that at least 87 livres of Charpentier's stipend went for musicians. However, it seems safe to assume that the splendid Te Deum of the Academy of Painting massed many more musicians than that. Let us therefore suppose that the number hired by Charpentier approached the 65-70 who had performed Chapperon's Te Deum (55 paid "musiciens," probably instrumentalists, plus a dozen or so singers of the Sainte-Chapelle): This means that Charpentier passed between 195 and 210 of his 350 livres on to the performers. Another bit of information gleaned from Chapperon's lawsuit suggest that it was generally understood that a patron would pay a maître de musique a lump sum to cover the cost of the composition and the performers, and that this sum was approximately twice the amount they considered an appropriate reward for the composer. [Brenet, p. 246, where Chapperon is allowed to keep half of the 600 livres he received from the Parlement.] Put simply, roughly half the stipend went to hire the performers (and, perhaps, pay for copyists), and the master pocketed the rest. In other words, the Academy doubtlessly expected Charpentier to hire 50-55 performers and keep the remaining 175-200 livres. (In 1676 Charpentier received 220-odd livres for his music for Circé.)

The Guise composer as musical extoller of Louis XIV and Catholicism

In one of the panels of this triptych devoted to this Te Deum of 1687, I mused about the "affective" ties that linked Charpentier and Le Brun, and about the "glory" that the Guise princesses may have seen themselves as acquiring through their protégé's participation in the Te Deum of the Academy of Painting. I will expand upon these ideas here by arguing that the nine paintings displayed during this event mirrored Mlle de Guise 's and Mme de Guise's personal efforts of to simultaneously serve God and their king. And that by preparing this Te Deum, Charpentier was acting not only as the voice of the Royal Academy of Painting but as the voice of his devout protectresses:

Painting 1: "Le Roy assis sur un trône au-dessus duquel paroissoit la Providence" — This first painting needs only a reminder that Mme de Guise was Louis XIV's first cousin, and that after the death of the last male Guise in 1675, both princesses offered themselves to God and their king, becoming handmaidens who worked for the accomplishment of Divine and royal will, as exemplified in the projects depicted in the remaining eight paintings. (Indeed, this is the thrust of the oratorios Their Highnesses began sponsoring as they emerged from mourning in 1676.)

Painting 2: "La France qui rendoit grâces de sa guérison à Dieu" — On January 20, 1687, Mlle de Guise sponsored a lavish service at the new abbey church of Montmartre that cost 7,000 livres, one of the many events celebrating the King's recovery. [Ranum, colloque de Joinville, 1994, p. 634)] Charpentier's Idyle sur le retour de la santé du Roy (H. 489) may have been performed after this event, but it is more likely that the venue for this chamber opera was Mme de Guise's Luxembourg Palace, probably as one of the many festivities throughout the city after Louis XIV's visit to the Hôtel de Ville of Paris in February 1687. (Her Royal Highness had sat near her cousin at the banquet earlier that day.)

Paintings 3, 4, 5 and 6: "L'Église victorieuse de l'Hérésie"; "La démolition du Temple de Charenton"; "L'Église cathédrale de Strasbourg où la Religion catholique a esté rétablie par le Roy"; and "Les Missions dans les pays plus éloignez" — Prior to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes both Guise ladies had been fervent converters of Protestants. For example, Charpentier's first oratorio in honor of Saint Cecilia (which focuses far less on music than on how the saint converts her husband and brother-in-law to Christianity) was written for the conversion ceremony of a young woman who had been converted to Catholicism at the urgings of Mme de Guise. Her Royal Highness subsequently founded a house for Nouvelles Converties at Alençon, and her converting activities increased after the Revocation. At the time of her death ,a year after the Te Deum, Mlle de Guise was paying the expenses of a former Huguenot girl whom she had placed at Montmartre for instruction.

Painting 7: "La distribution du blé et de pain qui se fit au Louvre durant la disette de l'année 1682" — As early as 1677 Mme de Guise became one of the "Ladies of Charity" who organized soup kitchens throughout Paris. When the scarcity of 1682 occurred, she was playing a major role in the charitable activities of the parish of Saint-Sulpice.

Painting 8: "L'Hostel des Invalides"— Neither princess was, of course, involved with invalid soldiers. Instead, the charitable activities of Mme de Guise included visiting the sick and the prisoners of the capital. Mlle de Guise had recently founded hospitals in her lands in eastern France, and Mme de Guise is known to have actually tended to the physical needs of the patients in the hospital of Alençon.

Painting 9: "L'éducation des jeunes filles des familles nobles dans la maison de Saint Cyr et de jeunes gentilshommes dans les écoles établies en plusieurs villes frontières" — In 1687, the so-called "Filles of Father Nicolas Barré," founded in 1676 and protected by Mlle de Guise, were teaching at Saint Cyr. And, in 1676, Mme de Guise had offered her protection to the "Académie de l'Enfant Jésus," a school for noble boys situated in the parish of Saint-Sulpice. By the early 1680s Mlle de Guise was sending male and female teachers trained by Barré into the principal towns of her lands in eastern France.

In sum, during the decade preceding the Te Deum of 1687, the "principal actions" of the two Highnesses of Guise paralleled the "principal actions" of Louis XIV being depicted by the Academy of Painting. That is not to say that the princesses were competing with the monarch. Rather, they and the king were carrying on a common devotional activity: implementing God's will on earth. By a sort of fusion, Charpentier's Te Deum was lauding God — and Louis XIV, as J.-P. C. Montagnier's recent article on Te Deums suggests [Revue de Musicologie, 84 (1998), pp. 199-233] — but by extension it was also lauding all Fench subjects (among them the Guise ladies) who were putting their prestige and their money to work on the parish and regional level, in support of the royal "actions" being praised by the Academy.

Why is the Te Deum manuscript apparently missing from Charpentier's autograph notebooks?

In the panel of this triptych devoted to Charpentier and Le Brun, I expressed scepticism about the hypothesis that for this event Charpentier re-used a Te Deum he had written fifteen years earlier, probably for the Jesuits of Saint-Louis.

We know that Charpentier received cash for his contribution to the Te Deum. So, according to my hypothesis about the logic underlying his two series of notebooks, the Te Deum of 1687 should appear in the series with Roman numerals. But it is not in the final pages of Notebook L (Dec. 1686- spring 1687), where it should be. Nor is it to be found in Notebook LI (June-July 1687), nor in the "problematic" Notebooks A and B that apparently once constituted the missing Notebook LII (Aug- Dec. 1687). It is, of course, possible that Charpentier copied the Te Deum and Exaudiat into an independent notebook and inserted it — slightly out of chronological order — into his Roman series under the number, LIII. (This possibility meshes with my very strong impression that the notebooks were not actually numbered until after 1688, when Charpentier became music master for the Jesuits and went through his files, singling out those pieces for the Guises that lent themselves to re-use for the Reverend Fathers.)

I have argued elsewhere (in my Vers une chronologie, for example) that once Charpentier was paid, for all intents and purposes he surrendered his rights to a composition, and the work could only be revived for that patron — or for someone to whom the patron was willing to cede his rights to this hitherto exclusive work. The Te Deum and Exaudiat of 1687 therefore became the property of the Royal Academy of Painting. They — not Charpentier — were entitled to publish these works. And here I am not hypothesizing, for the Mercure Galant makes that very point about Father Soanem's panegyric, which the Academy was considering publishing. Although Soanem "n'ait jamais voulu qu'on ait imprimé aucun de ses Ouvrages," it states, the academicians did not expect him to resist their plan. Not only would such a refusal "priver le Public de ce qui est glorieux à Sa Majesté," it would be presumptuous on Soanem's part. For this text is now the property of the Academy: this glorious thing "doit en quelque sorte appartenir à ceux [i.e., the Academy] qu'il a bien voulu obliger en composant ce panégyrique." In other words, when an artist agreed to work for a patron, the work, "in a sense," belonged to the patron; and it was the patron who decided whether the work would be "given to the public."

For this reason it unwise to imagine Charpentier digging into his files, pulling out a work composed a decade earlier for the Jesuits and then reviving it for the Royal Academy of Painting. Instead, we should probably conclude that the work is lost — indeed, that Charpentier immediately surrendered the manuscript to the Academy, hoping that it would be published in what would amount to a four-part publication project: a "book already given to the public" (apparently a lengthy description of the fête); a "second volume being prepared, which will contain engravings of all the paintings"; Soanem's panegyric; and Charpentier's  music for the Te Deum.

If publication of Charpentier's music was proposed, nothing came of the project. Was the project short-circuited by a growing cabale against Charles Le Brun? [On this cabale, see Charles Le Brun, a catalogue of the exhibit at Versailles, 1963, pp. lxxi-lxxiv] As the records of the Academy show (see the Fugitive Piece), six members "refused to contribute" to the cost of the Te Deum, apparently resenting Le Brun's monopolization of preparations. Among the rebels was Mignard, who would be named Le Brun's successor in 1690.