Online Exhibition: Emily Peppers
 
 


Music, Musicians and New Discoveries in French Triumphal Entries: the royal entry into Rouen, 1550


There are numerous surviving printed books of triumphal entries in France from the sixteenth century. Success of the event through its opulence, glorification, painstaking planning and pomp and ceremony were carefully communicated across the pages of the publication, and music within these festivities was a symbol of cultural sophistication, wealth, power and fashion. As part of PhD research into the introduction of the viol (viola da gamba) into France during the sixteenth century, art, archival records and printed books have been surveyed to construct a better understanding of the introduction, development and establishment of the viol in France. Research has also provided a glimpse into the use of music and musical instruments in triumphal entries across France through surviving printed festival books.

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Musicians were contracted for specific purposes in the entry and surrounding events, and the type of instrument often dictated how the instrument was used. ‘Haut’ or loud instruments were portable and provided entertainment throughout the procession and at outdoor spectacles, playing both ceremonial fanfares and polyphonic music in vogue at the time.

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Detail of trumpeters from the 1550 royal entry of Henri II and Catherine de Medici into Rouen
(c) British Library Board (811.d.26)
 



In opposition to the parading ‘loud’ band in a triumphal entry was the consort of musicians used for smaller or stationary events. Here, ‘bas’ or softer instruments were often included, performing with actors or singers a piece connected to the theme of the entry. Triumphal arches and static tableaux scenes would depict the chosen themes of the entry, with a main focus on glorification of the visiting nobility, often through allegorical mediums.

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Title page of Henri II and Catherine de Medici’s royal entry into Rouen, 1550
(c) British Library Board (811.d.26)



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In the festival book of the royal entry of Henri II and Catherine de Medici into Rouen in 1550, there is a printed image of Orpheus, Hercules and the Muses. Orpheus is seen with a harp, surrounded by muses playing violins and a viol or bass violin. The appearance of Orpheus on the large rocky tableau calls to mind Apollo and the Muses on Mount Parnassus, a common allegorical theme of the period.

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Orpheus, Hercules and the Muses on a rocky tableau, from the 1550 royal entry of
Henri II and Catherine de Medici into Rouen

(c) British Library Board (811.d.26)
 


The replacement of Apollo with his son Orpheus drew a familial connection between these mythological gods, and between Francis I and his son Henri II. Use of string instruments in the tableau represented a higher form of arts and morality, of Orpheus a supreme connection to music, arts and learning and in his choice a direct reminder of Francis’ power and political prowess.

It is incredibly rare to find a printed example of music in festival books in France during the sixteenth century, but within this very same book a full four-part chanson with text was printed. By surveying previous scholarly publications, it can be attested that this is the first time this piece has been identified, transcribed and recorded.

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Anonymous four-part chanson, from the 1550 royal entry
of Henri II and Catherine de Medici into Rouen

(c) British Library Board (811.d.26)

The music itself is anonymous, but future research in Rouen departmental archives could reveal the composer. The accompanying recording is an instrumental version of the piece, and is perhaps the first time in 460 years that this music has been heard. For more information please check the website news page in coming months for details of a forthcoming publication.

Listen to the song here
(c) Emily Peppers 2010.

 
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