Le bon Monarque manquoit d'haleine (The good Monarch was short of breath) by François Godefroy, after a drawing by L. J. Lefebvre, ca. 1798. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
after a drawing by L. J. Lefebvre
In this tiny image, a turbanned man plays a transverse flute. He faces a woman who plays a viol. The setting is a luxuriously appointed room which has high ceilings and beautiful architectural details. The woman sits on a divan, her feet resting on a large cushion. The floor is carpeted and above the divan is a canopy with falling draperies. Behind the flutist is another turbanned man who gestures with his hands.
This image is a plate from a prose/poem by Jacques Cazotte (1719-1792), Ollivier, poëme, of 1798. It appears in the "Chant Quatrième" ("Fourth Canto"). There are twelve cantos in Ollivier and the fourth canto tells the story of Fleur-de-Myrte, a young noblewoman who is shipwrecked on the island of the Mélologues, a people who have lost the ability to speak except through musical instruments. The etching shows Fleur-de-Myrte with the sovereign of the island, Macore, who courts her by playing a flute. She responds to him on a viol, but she is being coached by Zerbin, an interpreter, who stands behind the king and gestures to her the appropriate response, a "si" for "yes" and a "sol" for "no."
The inscription beneath the image is derived from the following passage, given here in translation: "Macore arrives; he has furnished himself with a transverse flute, an instrument very analogous to the feeling that he intended to inspire. He began with an air which was considered a sarabande with rounds and cadences without end, to which the movement of his eyes served as accompaniment. The good monarch was short of breath, had neither fingering nor embouchure; his playing was not pure, not clear; so that his compliment, which was in other respects only a tissue of commonplaces, could pass, with regard to depth and form, for a very insipid piece of symphony."
The rest of the story is this: Because of Fleur-de-Myrte's musical responses, Macore believed she had consented to stay with him. Fleur-de-Myrte was angry with Zerbin for guiding her responses in such a way as to be so misunderstood by the king. Zerbin begged her forgiveness and told her he would help her escape from the island. Zerbin himself had been shipwrecked on the island just a few years previously and he arranged with some sailors who had been shipwrecked with him to secure a ship for Fleur-de-Myrte's and his own escape. Zerbin convinced Macore that Fleur-de-Myrte was not well and could not see him for two days. Then, he brought opium to Fleur-de-Myrte to give to the women who served her so they would fall asleep, and he brought her clothing so she might disguise herself as a page. His most ingenious ruse, however, was to remove parts from the court instruments. He took the hoppers from the harpsichords, the bridges from the violins, and the cranks from the hurdy-gurdys, "so that we will be far away from here before they have found out the way to understand each other." The plan went as Zerbin arranged it and Fleur-de-Myrte sailed away from the island. The Fourth Canto ends in a poetic invocation to the winds, the waves, the clouds, and the moon to protect her in her journey.
See 501/N, Daphnis and Chloe, an etching by Godefroy after a drawing by Baron Gérard.
About the Artists and Author
François Godefroy, engraver, 1743-1819
François Godefroy was born in Rouen and he died in Paris, according to Bénézit. He took part in the Salons from 1798 to 1810 and he copied works after Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) and Jean-Baptiste Huet, the elder (1745-1811).
L. J. Lefebvre, draughtsman, active late 18th century
There is no biographical information on L.J. Lefebvre, other than his initials which are given in the bibliographic record for Ollivier in Orbis, the online Yale University Library Catalog.
Jacques Cazotte, author, 1719-1792
Jacques Cazotte, the author of Ollivier, was born in Dijon, where he received a degree in law. He then went to Paris where, through family connections, he was sponsored by the comte de Choiseul and began his service in the French navy in an administrative capacity, which left him time to mingle in French society with writers and artists. He spent many years on the island of Martinique and during one of his returns to Paris for the sake of his health, in 1752-1753, he first wrote a ballad on which the story of Ollivier would be based (first published about 1763). By about 1760, Cazotte was able to retire to the country, at Pierry, where he married a woman born in Martinique shortly after that. Though he had written several "contes" or tales in the 1740s, he now devoted himself more seriously to writing. He published satires, romantic tales, allegories, and fantasies, many of which had "oriental" settings. Cazotte's most famous book was Le Diable amoureux (The Devil in Love), a story of the devil disguised as a woman who attempts to seduce a young Spaniard, first published in 1772. Later in life, Cazotte became increasingly interested in the occult, espousing the doctrines of Martinism. Deeply religious and a royalist, he was an "anti-philosophes," that is, against the rationalism and philosophy of men of the Enlightenment, such as Voltaire. His support for the king ultimately led to his arrest and execution in 1792.
- Jacques Cazotte (1719-1792), Ollivier, poëme, Paris: De l'Imprimerie de Pierre Didot l'aîné, 1798. A copy of the 1798 edition is at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, call number Altschul 49. This etching by Godefroy does appear in the 1798 edition of Cazotte's Ollivier, volume 1, facing page 152, as confirmed by Kathryn James, Reference Librarian, Beinecke Library, Yale University, 29 March 2006. [back to article]
- Original text: "Macore arrive; il s'étoit muni d'une flûte traversière, instrument très-analogue au sentiment qu'il avoit dessein d'inspirer. Il débute par un air qui tenoit de la sarabande, avec des roulemens, des cadences sans fin, auxquels le mouvement de ses yeux servoit d'accompagnement. Le bon monarque manquoit d'haleine, n'avoit ni doigts ni embouchure; son jeu n'étoit point détaché, point net; de sorte que son compliment, qui n'étoit d'ailleurs qu'un tissu de lieux communs, pouvoit passer, quant au fonds et à la forme, pour un très-insipide morceau de symphonie." The full text of Ollivier from which this passage is quoted comes from a reprint edition of a collection of works by Jacques Cazotte, Oeuvres badines et morales, historiques et philosophiques. Hildesheim and New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1976. Reprint of 1817 edition, published in Paris by Jean-François Bastien. LC call number: PQ1961.C5 1976, vol. 1. The above passage comes from Ollivier, Fourth Canto, pp. 78-100. Ollivier was first published in 1763 in two volumes. [back to article]
- The source for biographical information on Cazotte was drawn from Edward Pease Shaw, Jacques Cazotte (1719-1792). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1942. LC call number: PQ1961.C5S5. [back to article]