My doctor asked me to take one Aspirin tablet every morning, to avoid a cardiovascular accident. It was prescribed medication. However, I suffer from a very mild form of haemophilia, so I haemorrhaged. It happened during the night, when I was sound asleep. I did not notice I had bled until morning, when I saw dry blood on the bedclothes, all around my mouth, my teeth, my hands, my night gown. What a mess!
Les Femmes savantes (1672) is hilarious, but there are comments that could lead one to think that Molière was a misogynist. He wasn’t, but he featured pedants and women who opposed marriage, sexual intercourse, especially. The laws governing comedies demand a marriage, i.e. the perpetuation of life.
Molière features characters who cannot steer a middle-ground (called modération [restraint]) and threaten the marriage of comedy’s young lovers. Les Femmessavantes has affinities with LesPrécieuses ridicules (1659). Magdelon and Cathos are blinded by their wish to open a salon. They cannot tell that Mascarille and Jodelet are valets to La Grange and Du Croisy, fine young men they have rejected.
Henriette’s mother, Philaminte, her sister Armande and aunt, Bélise, are blinded not so much by genuine knowledge, but by pedantry. They want Henriette to marry Trissotin (sotmeans fool or idiot, and tri suggests trinity [three]). As for Henriette’s father, Chrysalde, although he wishes his daughter to marry Clitandre, he does as his wife dictates. Philaminte runs their household, their ménage.
our femmes savantes are Philaminte, Chrysale’s wife, Bélise and Armande
the young lovers are Henriette (Armande’s sister) and Clitandre
our pedant is Trissotin (bel esprit)
Chrysale is Armande and Henriette’s father
Ariste is Chrysale’s brother, a helper, and the raisonneur
Vadius is a learned man
the play also features servants, Martine is the most important
As you know, Jean-Philippe Rameau was inspired to write Les Indes galantes after watching Amerindians dance. However, after the Prologue, Rameau’s Indes galantes features
a gracious Turk, “un Turc généreux”
Incas from Peru, and
Persians ((Flowers – Persian Feast), “Les Fleurs – Fête persane”
In fact, only the final of the four acts is linked directly to Amerindians. Moreover, that fourth entrée was composed later than the first three acts. It is called
New Act – Les Sauvages (written [Louis Fuzelier] and composed [Rameau] a little later)
Needless to say, this piqued my curiosity. I also noticed the frequent use of the word “nations” in the music literature of the time, beginning with the reign of Louis XIV or as of Jean-Baptiste Lully. The final ballet constituting the Bourgeois gentilhomme is named “Ballets des Nations.” Rameau was Lully’s successor.
For instance, Marin Marais wrote a Suitte [sic] d’un goût [taste] étranger [foreign] in 1717, performed by Jorgi Savall who has been restoring music of the 17th and 18th century. Jorgi Savall provided the music for the film Tous les matins du monde (Every morning in the world). Why say du monde (of the world)?
Savall’s ensemble, called the Concert desnations, has also recorded music by Rameau. It could be that the word had a slightly different connotation, that it simply meant “d’un goût étranger” as in Marin Marais‘s Suitte d’un goût étranger. For six months Marin Marais was a student of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe whose story is told in Tous les matins du monde.
Sifting through the music of François Couperin (10 November 1668 – 11 September 1733), I noted that François Couperin[i] wrote a piece entitled Les Nations. I doubt that in the 17th- and 18th century France, the word nation had the same meaning as it does today. It may have encompassed a wider territory that our current nations. Moreover, Amerindians consisted of nations.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that the Byzantine Empire had fallen into the hands of Ottoman Turks in the middle of the fifteenth century (1453). As a result, Byzantine scholars (Greek culture) fled to Western Europe prompting a Renaissance, the Renaissance. However, if, on the one hand, the fall of the Byzantine Empire had a great impact on Western Europe, the revival of Greek culture, on the other hand, citizens of the now huge Ottoman Empire travelled north creating a taste for all things oriental, but also threatening European cities.
The Orient was not new to Europeans but Orientalism reached an apex in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Orientalism in fashion became known as “turquerie” and, in its early days, “turquerie” included Persia, which may confer a degree of unity to Les Indes galantes’ various entrées. Matters did not change until the publication, in 1721, of Montesquieu‘s Persian Letters (Lettres persanes).
Persian Ambassadors at the Court of Louis XIV, studio of Antoine Coypel, c. 1715 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(please click on the picture to enlarge it)
Montesquieu‘s[i]Persian Letters were written after the visit, at the court of France, of ambassador Mohammed Reza Beg or Mehemet Riza Beg. In 1715, the year Louis XIV died, he was visited by Persian ambassador Mohammed Riza Beg who established an embassy in Marseilles. Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes were written and published after the ambassador and his entourage spent several months at the court of Louis XIV.
Turqueries à la Molière and Lully
However, the word “turquerie” has two meanings. The first, as we have seen, is orientalism. However, in Molière’s Bourgeois gentilhomme, a “turquerie” is a play-within-a-play that fools Monsieur Jourdain, the senex iratus of the comedy, who is rich but untitled, into thinking he has been conferred a title, that of mamamouchi. Cléonte, the young man who wishes to marry Lucile, who loves him, then asks for her hand in marriage dressed as the son of the Sultan of Turkey. She resists until Cléonte succeeds in letting her know that he is wearing a disguise. (Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Act V, Scene 5)
Louis XIV was very fond of turqueries. The music was composed by Jean Baptiste Lully (Giovanni Battista Lulli; 28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687). The ballet was choreographed by Pierre Beauchamp. But the comedy was written by Molière (1622- 1673), one of France’s foremost dramatists ever.
« Le roi veut un ballet, et qu’il y ait une turquerie plaisante ; au poète, au musicien, aux danseurs de bâtir là-dessus un divertissement qui plaise au roi… »
“The king wants a ballet, and wants it to have a pleasant turquerie; the poet, the musician and the dancers must therefore build from this ballet and turquerie entertainment that will please the king…”[ii]
Added to the turquerie, the fifth and final act of theBourgeois gentilhomme (The Would-be Gentleman), is the Ballets des Nations. It features Gascons, people from Gascony, Spaniards and Italians as well as a blend of persons from different classes. So the idea of nation surfaces again.
In short, both the Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670) and Rameau’s Indes galantes are turqueries and illustrate the two kinds of turqueries, Orientalism and a deceitful play-within-a-play. Each may in fact combine elements of both turqueries.
[i] Montesquieu’s full name is Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), but he is referred to as Montesquieu. His most influential book is The Spirit of the Laws,De l’Esprit des Lois, published in Geneva in 1748.
[ii] Charles Mazouer, Trois comédies de Molière (Bordeaux: Presses universitaires de Bordeaux, 2008), p. 17.
Boutet was therefore, at first, an academic painter and had been exposed to the Neoclassicism of Jacques-Louis David, whose painting of Marat dead in his tub has become iconic. However, David’s Neoclassical style is better exemplified by his Oath of the Horatii (1784). We should also remember that as the Neoclassical style lost its popularity, there emerged schools such as the Barbizon School‘s plein-air painters (1830-1870) that favored realistic and representational painting but without the imprecision of Impressionism, a movement that flourished in the 1870s and 1880’s. Moreover, painters associated with Post-Impressionism often doubled up as illustrators and decorators. Art Nouveau (1890-1910) artists, some of whom are linked with Post-impressionism were interested in the decorative arts. They had to make a living and their clients were privileged.
Boutet de Monvel as Illustrator
Louis–Maurice Boutet de Monvel (a cover picture)
(please click of the pictures to enlarge them)
Photo credit: Wikipedia
See also: Ricochet Jeunes
But Boutet de Monvel is remembered not for his academic paintings, but for his work as a children’s books illustrator. His main achievement in this regard is an illustrated children’s history of Joan of Arc, published in 1895. It brought him recognition and renown. But earlier Boutet had also illustrated a book of songs for children: Chansons de France pour les petits enfants.
Chansons de France pour les petits enfants
Several years ago, I purchased a copy of a hardcover edition of Boutet de Monvel’s Chansons de France pour les petits enfants (Songs of France for Children). It is a beautifully illustrated book published in what was the golden age of illustration and posters: the Post-Impressionism of the late nineteenth century and the age of fabulous posters (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Théophile Steinlen) and illustrations often executed against a blank background, such as Léon Bakst‘s designs.
Characteristics of Boutet de Monvel’s Chansons
In Chansons de France pour les petits enfants, whenever the page includes the score and the lyrics, the illustrations are the background. But, as we can see below, in the Gallery, the background of the cover page of the Chansons is coloured but blank.
The combination of Three elements
A fine characteristic of Boutet’s Chansons de France pour les petits enfants is the successful combination of three elements: the illustration, the score, and the lyrics (sometimes abridged). In order to combine these three features, Boutet either knew music or hired an assistant. However, no mention is made of a collaborator.
La Vie de Jeanne d’Arc, by Anatole France
For that matter, no collaborator is named with respect to Boutet’s Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc). Boutet’s Jeanne d’Arc seems altogether the work of an eclectic Boutet de Monvel. Yet Monvel collaborated with Nobel-laureate French writer Anatole France (16 April 1844 – 12 October 1924) in the creation of Nos enfants: Scènes de la Ville et des Champs (1887). Nos enfantsis an online publication which, unfortunately, does not show illustrations. This would have been Boutet’s contribution.
Influence on Anatole France: Jeanne d’Arc
It may be, however, that Boutet influenced Anatole France, not as an artist but in the choice of Joan of Arc as a subject-matter. Zeitgeist played its role, but the more immediate example was Boutet de Monvel’s Joan of Arc. In 1908, thirteen years after the publication of Boutet’s Jeanne d’Arc, Anatole France published his Vie de Jeanne d’Arc.
Boutet’s Joan of Arc was translated into English and, during a trip to the United States, in 1899, the beauty of his illustrations brought Bouvet a commission “by a wealthy American.” He was asked to create “a series of large scale panels based upon his Joan of Arc illustrations” (Wikipedia). These panels are housed at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC.
Back to Chansons de France pour les petits enfants
But, let us return to the Chansons de France pour les petits enfants. It would appear that Au Clair de la Lune was composed by Italian-born Jean-Baptiste de Lully, Giovanni Battista Lulli, (28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687), a dancer and a composer who worked at the court of Louis XIV. If such is the case, the song was composed in the seventeenth century and not in the eighteenth century.
However, it has just occurred to me that the song may have been written by Jean-Baptiste Lully fils, one of Lully’s sons. Au Clair de la Lune would then be an eighteenth-century composition. But knowing that the song is a composition is the more relevant information. Au Clair de la Lune did not go from generation to generation in an oral tradition, which is the case, for example, with Æsop’s fables. Au Clair de la Lune is not folklore, although it may have entered folklore for lack of an identified composer.
I have a great deal of admiration for illustrators. Their work is reproduced, but artistically it does not take a second place to the original. The difference is financial.