MIMO - Musical Instruments Museums Online

MIMO - Musical Instruments Museums Online is an European project.
Eleven partner museums have photographed their musical instruments (including a large number of those never shown publicly), edited audio and video material and prepared their databases so to make their content available to the public.
It constitutes an impressive database of some 45 000 musical instruments.

They also propose a virtual exhibition called 'Explore the World of Musical Instruments' which shows a selection of instruments from all around the world and illustrates various styles and cultural uses.

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Château de Versailles Magazine

This is the first issue of a magazine dedicated to the chateau de Versailles and its history. It is possible to order it from the publisher's site.

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Dans l'Atelier des Menus Plaisirs - Exhibition

(libretto by Quinault, music by Lully)
Frontispiece designed by Berain

Dans l'atelier des Menus Plaisirs du Roi - spectacles, fêtes et cérémonies aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle (In the atelier of the King's Menus Plaisirs - performances, feasts and ceremonies in the 17th and 18th centuries) is the title of the current exhibition at the Archives Nationales (January 19 - April 24, 2011).

The "Menus Plaisirs du Roi" was the department of the Maison du Roi (royal household) in charge of the preparation of the events, festivities and ceremonies (including funerals) for the kings of France. They were working as event organizers and their duty ranged from planning the events to the design of the costumes, sets, architectures and their making.

The Archives Nationales are the keeper of the archives of the Maison du Roi, and have a large collection of manuscripts related to the performances and ceremonies organized at the French court during the ancien régime. Among these records, we find a set of eight volumes titled Recueils de décoration de théâtre et de pompes funèbres. It is a collection of drawings from various times and events gathered by the Menus Plaisirs, or, to be more precise, by Antoine Angélique Levesque (1709-1767), "Garde général des magasins des Menus Plaisirs du Roi" i.e. responsible of the place where the costumes and decorations were made and stored.

The Menus Plaisirs archives have recently been inventoried, identified and classified and the present exhibition is a way to value the important work done.
Amadis de Gaule (1699), project by Jean Bérain
libretto by Antoine Houdar de la Motte - music by André Cardinal Destouches

A huge and most interesting 256-pages catalogue was published on the occasion :
Dans l'atelier des Menus Plaisirs du Roi - spectacles, fêtes et cérémonies aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle.
by Jérôme de la Gorce et Pierre Jugie
ISBN : 978-2-85495-439-5
Archives Nationales, Paris, 2010
Editions Artlys, Versailles 2010
€ 35

But that's not all : more interesting, especially to those of my foreign readers who cannot attend the exhibition or read the catalogue, the archives Nationales have put the whole series of books compiled by Antoine Angélique Levesque on their site ARCHIM :

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Visit Versailles with Google Art Project


Ancient Fabrics and Costumes - Le Manach Auction III

from the Manufacture LE MANACH (*) collection
of ancient fabrics and wallpapers, and others

Thierry de Maigret - Drouot Richelieu (Paris)
February 04, 2011 - 2pm

(click on the picture to access the site, have a look at the wonders,
download the PDF catalogue, etc.)
(*) - Le Manach was founded in the city of Tours in 1829 and is still active. It's the heir of long tradition of silk industry, which started in 1470, when king Louis XI decided to establish a French production of silk to avoid imports from Italy. Tours was the other French silk city, even if now Lyon is more famous.

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Each year the 'Mission des Célébrations nationales' establishes a list of people and events to be commemorated. We heard a lot about it recently because they had included Céline, writer and literary genius but also author of violent anti-semitic pamphlets in the years 1930 and 40. The debate about Céline almost made us forget that there was more on the list, especially characters and events of interest to this blog :

- The Académie Royale de Danse. The French dance institution was founded by letters patent on the initiative of Louis XIV on 30 March 1661. It was his first political decision after he decided to assume full control of his State. The institution disappeared in the years 1780.

- Nicolas Boileau (1636-1771), AKA Boileau-Despréaux, AKA « the Parnassus lawyer », poet, writer, and theoretician of the French classical esthetics in literature. Boileau was made historiographer to king Louis XIV in 1677.

- Claude Garamont (1499-1561), not really our time period, but he designed the Garamond font which was adopted as the French standard at the Manufacture Royal d'Imprimerie, the State printing founded in 1640 by Richelieu.

- Angélique Arnauld (1591-1661), abbess and reformator of Port Royal. In 1635, under the influence of the abbé de Saint-Cyran, she became one of the main promoters of Jansenism, a very influencial religious movement at that time, which a few years after her death was condemned and forbidden as heretical. Angélique Arnauld left memoires.

- Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811), navigator, explorer and military commander.

- Jean-François Chalgrin (1739-1811), architect. He was a representant of the neoclassical style. He is best known for the Arc-de-Triomphe in Paris, but among his other works we find, still in Paris, the theatre de l'Odéon, part of the Palais du Luxembourg, of the churches Saint-Sulpice and Saint-Philippe-du-Roule and the Collège Royal de France. And, gorgeous illustration to this post, he also designed the temporary ballroom built in occasion of the wedding of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

- Alexandre Lenoir (1761-1839), archeologist and devouted to saving historic monuments, sculptures and tombs from the ravages of the Revolution, notably those of Saint-Denis and Sainte-Geneviève.

- Construction of Notre-Dame de Reims, cathedral where the kings of France were once crowned. It was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.



Sciences & Curiosities at the Court of Versailles

Sciences & Curiosities at the Court of Versailles is the title of the current exhibition in the chateau de Versailles. It started in October and will close on February 27.

The illustration above is the cover of the catalogue (only available in French, as usual*). If you can't read French, and haven't planned any travel to Versailles, all is not lost. There is a lot to see and to learn from the Chateau de Versailles site which, fortunately, provides an english version.

If you're interested in the history and science, pay a virtual visit to it, you won't be disappointed...

(*) The reason is that the RMN (Réunion des Musées Nationaux - which rules the national museums and publishes most of the exhibition catalogues in France) have chosen to focus on the creation of catalogues rather than on the translation of them. So, except on rare occurences, the translation is left to foreign publishers willing to buy the translation rights.
If you're a publisher, here is the contact page.

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The Mistresses of Louis XIV

or 'Les Maîtresses de Louis XIV'.

It is the name of a perfume by Romea d'Ameor.


It takes all this to get the feeling you're a XVIIth-century beauty !

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Splendour of Table and Décor at Versailles

The restoration of the magnificent room called the 'Antichambre du Grand Couvert', in the Palace of Versailles, has just been completed. It was the place where king Louis XIV and his family used to have diner, at night (10 pm), in public - a ceremonial repast which was called 'au Grand Couvert'.

This book, a French English bilingual edition, put the focus on the "Grand Couvert", describing its organization and decrypting its rituals and codes.

Nicolas Milovanovic
L'Antichambre du Grand Couvert : Fastes de la table et du décor à Versailles,
Gourcuff Gradenigo - Livres d'art LG, 2010, 120 p.

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The Attributes of Music

Two paintings, The Attributes of civilian music and The Attribute of Military music (1767) by Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) were recently given to the Louvre.

The paintings were supraporti ordered for the château de Bellevue in Meudon. Bellevue was given by Louis XV to his mistress Madame de Pompadour. She died in 1764, leaving the chateau to her brother, Abel François Poisson de Vandières, Marquis de Marigny (1727-1781).

Provenience : Coll. Eudoxe Marcille up to 1890, kept by his descendants until 2010.
RF2010-12 et RF2010-13.

These two paintings are companion pieces to The Attributes of music (INV.3200) and The attributes of the arts (INV.3199) (1765) already part of the Louvre collection.

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Henri IV's Head

A head reputed to be that of the French King Henri IV was found in a private home in 2008. After two years of investigation, a multidiciplinary team led by Philippe Charlier has just confirmed that the head indeed belonged to the monarch. It was stolen in the basilica of Saint-Denis, in 1793, when the revolutionaries desacrated the French king's grave.
After so many years we are still not done with the ugly side of the Revolution.

Philippe Charlier is forensic medical examiner and osteo-archaeologist who already worked on several historical misteries. He is the one who evidenced that Agnes Sorel, mistress to king Charles VII, died from mercury poisoning. He also identified a little heart kept in Saint-Denis as being the one of Louis XVII, Louis XVI's son who was said to have died from bad treatments and negligence in the prison of the Temple.

More about Henri IV on the BMJ article here.

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Grands Motets for Louis XIV

Grands Motets pour Louis XIV
by Le Chœur de Chambre de Namur and Les Agrémens under Guy Van Waas.

The concert will take place at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles on Sunday November 28 2010 - 5:30pm (French time) and will be broadcast live on Arte Live Web

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Cherubini's Requiem for Louis XVI

Cherubini's Requiem for Louis XVI will be given on January 21st, 2011, at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles. Louis XVI was executed on January 21st, 1793.

I think it's the first time that such a commemoration is held in Versailles. Maybe it's a test. Two centuries later, Louis XVI is still part of the big taboos in France. In 1993, some people wanted to celebrate the bicentennial of his death by putting candles on the Place de la Concorde where he was guillotined, but the city of Paris didn't allow it. The Archbishop of Paris refused Notre-Dame for a requiem. Celebrations were allowed but only in discreet places so they could pass unnoticed.
Luigi Cherubini : Requiem à la mémoire de Louis XVI (Requiem n°1 en ut mineur, pour chœur mixte et orchestre, 1816).
Chœur Accentus - Orchestre de l’Opéra de Rouen Haute-Normandie
Direction Hervé Niquet

Château de Versailles

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The Princess of Montpensier

The Princess of Montpensier, a period film by Bertrand Tavernier based on the eponymous novel by Madame de La Fayette (Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, 1634-1693), was released today in France. The story takes place during the Wars of Religion.

All you need to know about the movie : Wikipedia.
An english translation of the book : Gutenberg.

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Rameau Redux - Opera Français de New York

November 10, 2010 - 7:30pm
Lycée Français de New York (LFNY)
505 East 75th Street, New York City

Rameau Redux juxtaposes the brilliant early cantatas of Jean-Philippe Rameau with the playful philosophical dialogues of Denis Diderot's Neveu de Rameau.

Harpsichord : Avi STEIN
Basse-taille : Douglas WILLIAMS
Haute-contre : Zachary WILDER

Actor : Mario BRASSARD

The acclaimed American harpsichordist, Avi Stein, leads a baroque ensemble featuring the gifted young singers Douglas Williams and Zachary Wilder in their OFNY debuts. This original concept production also features the acclaimed Canadian actor, Mario Brassard, as "Rameau's Nephew". Conceived and staged by our co-artistic directors, Jean-Philippe Clarac and Olivier Deloeuil, with lighting design by Rick Martin.

FOR TICKETS - CALL 212-632-5565 !

Opera Français de New York

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Lully's opera Bellérophon was revived this year in the occasion of the Festival de Beaune. It had been created in 1679 in Paris (Palais Royal) and hadn't been performed since the XVIIIth century.
Some audio samples of the opera (the prologue and the beginning of the second act) are on display here (at the end of the article).

Althought it was not Lully's first opera, it was the first of Lully's opera scores to be printed.
A copy of the original edition by Christophe Ballard can be found at the UNT Digital library.
(The UNT Digital Library is a great ressource for anyone interested in the history of music).

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In the years 1673/1674, Madame de Sévigné's and her friends started to refer to Madame de Montespan as "Quantova" or "Quanto".
Why such a nickname and what was the meaning of it ?

In that time, the snobish must among the French elite was to read and speak Italian, and the nickname was referring to the quote Madame de Sévigné once (a few years later) wrote in its entirety : "La Pedina del Re quanto va".

Pedina and Re belong to the Italian chess vocabulary, and they appear in a Italian proverb which says "Alla fin del gioco tanto va nel sacco il re quanto la pedina" which translates "After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box". Doubtlessly, that was the origin of the quote, but when the proverb was referring to death, madame de Sévigné was playing with the other meaning of "pedina".
In Italian, "pedina" means "pawn" but it was also the word used for an illegitimate wife. In that light, the "king and pedina in the same box at the end" had a very different meaning.

So, "Quantova" was a private joke on Madame de Montespan being the king's mistress and on how long she would be able to hold the position.



Louis Quatorze - Louis XIV

Louis XIV is the theme of the Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht 2010 which is starting today...

"Ten days of French Baroque music in Utrecht's concert halls and churches. Dozens of concerts, lectures, workshops and a symposium* place a spotlight on the Grand Siècle"...

* a three-day symposium titled French Baroque Gesture 1675-1800, with Graham Sadler speaking on a subject dear to my heart : "Reconstructing the union of music, movement and gesture in the ballets figurés of two Rameau-Cahusac operas"...
Update :
Reviews of the concerts on Johan Van Veen's excellent Musica Dei Donum.

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Sculptures Versailles

Petit Trianon

Sculptures Versailles is a wonderful ressource dedicated to the outdoor decoration of the Chateau de Versailles. It provides technical descriptions of the sculptures (author, size, kind of stone, theme, date...) and pictures about every detail of each building.
The author is Béatrix Saule, curator at Versailles.
It's in French, but there are a lot of pictures and inedited views to enjoy.
Temple de l'Amour
close-up on the delicate band of roses at the center of the rotunda

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Dress for Dance (II)

Costume Colloquium : Dress for Dance
Florence, November 4 - 7, 2010

Following the great success of the first Costume Colloquium (held in Florence 6-9 November 2008 and attended by over 315 participants from 26 countries with 39 presentations on 8 themes), there will be a second symposium in November 2010 on the subject of Dress for Dance.

The topics of Costume Colloquium II: Dress for Dance will include the following themes:
History of dance costume for professional performance: theatre, ballet, cinema, etc.
Dress for traditional and ceremonial dance: costume as expressions of cultures
Fashion and popular dance: relationship between new styles of dance and fashionable dress, past and present
Creating dance costume: designers, artists, artisans, stylists, tailors, seamstresses using traditional, experimental and/or contemporary materials and techniques
Historical dance re-enactment: getting the steps and the clothing right
Dance costume in museums and archives: collecting designs and surviving costume, conservation, display techniques
Documenting dance dress: dress as documents and documents of dress
Dance costume and artistic expression: their reciprocal relationship


The presentations of the first symposium are available for download on the site. You have to register, but it's free.

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