Friday, September 9, 2011

Mr Hubba Hubba of the Month

Chevalier de Saint-George

Ok  I went waaay back in time for this one (over 200 years to be exact) I came accross his story through a childrens book I snagged for a song at a book sale last month and  upon reading about him I became facinated with this dashing and absolutely De-lish man from the 18th century. Not only was he was skilled swordsman, he was a gifted musicain and composer that not only had "jam sessions" with Marie Antionette at her request, he gave Mozart a run for his money as well being affectionatley called Le Mozart de Noir (the Black Mozart). Oh did I mention he was a great dancer an quite the ladies man at the French Court? (Squeak!)
From Wikepedia:

Joseph Bologne was born in Guadeloupe to Nanon, a Wolof former slave, and a white French plantation owner, Georges Bologne de Saint-George. Although his father called himself ‘de Saint-George’, after one of his properties, he was not born into the nobility. Some biographers have mistaken him for Pierre Tavernier-Boulogne, controlleur général of finance, whose nobility dated back to the 15th century. The confusion surrounding the nobility of Saint-George' father originated with Roger de Beauvoir’s novel of 1840 ("Le Chevalier de Saint-George"). However, Georges Bologne was not ennobled until 1757, when he acquired the title of Gentilhomme ordinaire de la chambre du roi.

In 1747 George Bologne was accused unjustly of murder and fled to France with Nanon and her child to prevent their being sold. After two years he was granted a royal pardon and the family returned to Guadeloupe. In 1753, George took Joseph, who was then eight, to France permanently where he was enrolled in a private academy.

At the age of 13 Saint-George became a pupil of La Boëssière, a master of arms, and excelled in all physical exercises, especially fencing. When still a student, Saint-George beat Alexandre Picard, a fencing-master of Rouen, who had mocked him as ‘La Boëssière’s upstart mulatto’, and was rewarded by his father with a horse and buggy. He also studied literature and horseback riding, and became an exceptional violinist.

On graduating at the age of 19, he was made a Gendarme de la Garde du Roi (member of the royal guard) and knighted. After the end of the Seven Years' War, George Bologne returned to his Guadeloupe plantations, leaving his son with a handsome annuity. The young chevalier became the darling of fashionable society; all contemporary accounts speak of his romantic conquests. In 1766 the Italian fencer Giuseppe Faldoni came to Paris to challenge Saint-George. Faldoni won, but proclaimed Saint-George the finest swordsman in Europe.

CareerHe studied music in Saint-Domingue with the black violinist Joseph Platon before emigrating to Paris in 1752. The teacher, Platon, played an unspecified Saint-George violin concerto at Port-au-Prince (Haiti) on April 25, 1780.

After 1764, works dedicated to him by Lolli and Gossec suggest that Gossec was his composition teacher and that Lolli taught him violin. Saint-George’s technical approach was similar to that of Gaviniés, who may also have taught him. In 1769 he became a member of Gossec’s new orchestra, the Concert des Amateurs, at the Hôtel de Soubise, and was soon named its leader.

The Chevalier de Saint-George in a 1787 painting probably commissioned by the future George IV of the United Kingdom.While still a young man, he acquired multiple reputations; as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a composer in the classical tradition. He composed and conducted for the private orchestra and theatre of the marquise de Montesson, the morganatic wife of the King's cousin, Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. In 1771, he was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs, and later director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, the biggest orchestra of his time (65-70 musicians). This orchestra commissioned Joseph Haydn to compose six symphonies (the "Paris Symphonies" Nr. 82-87), which Saint-George conducted for their world premiere. Renowned both for his skill as a composer and musician, he was selected for appointment as the director of the Royal Opera of Louis XVI. But this was prevented by three Parisian divas who petitioned the King in writing against the appointment, insisting that it would be beneath their dignity and injurious to their professional reputations for them to sing on stage under the direction of a "mulatto".

Thwarted in his musical career, Saint-George earned fresh renown as a competitive fencer. He had already been dubbed "chevalier" by appreciative crowds at the Palais Royal. There is a famous portrait of him crossing swords in an exhibition match with the daring transvestite spy, the Chevalier d'Eon, in the presence of George of Hanover, the Prince of Wales and Britain's future king.

Like many others associated with the aristocracy and the court at Versailles, Saint-George served in the army of the Revolution against France's foreign enemies, although he is not known to have joined the domestic revolutionary struggle prior to the imprisonment of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. He was appointed the first black colonel of the French army, and commanded a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers, largely consisting of former slaves from the region of his birth. Repeatedly denounced, however, because of his aristocratic parentage and past association with the royal court, he was later expelled from the army, arrested, and jailed for nearly a year. After the revolution, he was entrusted with the leadership of the orchestra of the Royal Palace. He died in Paris in 1799.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you posted this. I found it enlightening to learn something new and this guy should be talked about!