It is difficult to identify the musicians gathered here with certainty. The man standing on the right is probably the flautist and composer Michel de La Barre, who was a member of the French Académie de Musique – the music depicted is an exact copy of his trio sonatas for flute and bass published in 1707.
The bass viol player is probably Marin Marais, while the identity of the two flute-players is less certain. Based on their ages, they are most likely to be Pierre Danican Philidor and his cousin Anne Danican Philidor (Anne used as a man’s name). However, it is also possible that they are Philibert Rebille and Rene Pignon Descoteaux who played in the king’s ensemble with Michel de La Barre.
The standing figure on the left may be a posthumous portrait of Jacques II Danican Philidor, or a self-portrait by the artist. The costumes suggest that the picture was probably painted around 1710.
A group of musicians is gathered around a table in a grand neoclassical loggia – it is difficult to identify them with certainty. André Bouys worked for a number of musicians, several of whose portraits he exhibited. The man standing on the right is probably Michel de La Barre (about 1675–15 March 1745), as the sheet music is an exact copy of his work published in 1707. It is inscribed: TRIO DE M. DE LA BARRE / SONATES EN TRIO / POUR LA FLUTE TRAVERS[IÈRE] / PREMIER SONATE’ (‘Trio of M. de La Barre / Trio sonatas / for the transverse flute’), and on the sheet music on which the flautist on the right rests his hand is written: LIVRE III DES…DE / SONATES EN TRIO / POUR LA FLUTE TRAVERSI [ÈRE] / PRIMIÈRE SONATE (‘Book III of../ Trio sonatas / for the transverse flute / First sonata’).
La Barre was a member of the French Académie de Musique; he published two opera-ballets and was an instrumentalist in La Musique de la Grande Ecurie, a group of musicians paid by the king to play ceremonial music on formal occasions. Bouys had exhibited a now lost portrait of La Barre at the 1699 Salon. The sheet music featured here includes the first trio sonatas written solely for flutes and bass to be published in France.
The bass viol player is probably Marin Marais, the composer of four tragic operas and numerous compositions for bass viol, including the first trio sonatas published in France. The identity of the two flute-players is less certain. Based on their ages, they are most likely to be Pierre Danican Philidor and his cousin Anne Danican Philidor (Anne used here as a man’s name), both of whom played flute for the Grande Ecurie. The figure at the extreme left might be a posthumous portrait of Jacques II Danican Philidor, Pierre’s brother, who was also a musician and was killed in combat on 25 June 1709. His position outside the circle of musicians and his sombre clothing would support this suggestion. It is difficult to see what he is holding, but it may be a flute pointing to the earth.
However, it is equally possible that the two flautists are Philibert Rebille and Rene Pignon Descoteaux, who were both members of the Grande Ecurie and are known to have played together in 1725. The seated figure with the ivory flute may perhaps be Jean-Baptiste(?) Chauvet, a patron of La Barre, or the principal musician of the ensemble.
Another possibility is that the standing figure on the left may be a self portrait by the artist. The man’s features and expression do look a bit like a self-portrait of Bouys, shown with his wife, painted in 1713 (Musée National, Versailles). Bouys rarely signed his work and the fact that he chose to sign this painting at bottom left, below this figure, suggests that it may indeed be him.
The costumes indicate that the picture was probably painted around 1710. It was definitely painted after 1707, when La Barre’s music was published, but before 1722, when flutes began to be made in four pieces rather than three as shown here. There is a smaller slightly different and possibly slightly later version of this portrait at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Dijon and another smaller version, the current location of which is unknown.
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