Mademoiselle de Guise and Big Purple Trees

 Just why are we using a big purple tree as the image for this concert? Well, it’s not only because it’s eye catching. The answer lies with Charpentier’s patron, Marie de Lorraine: also known as “Mademoiselle de Guise”. 

Marie de Lorraine was the last surviving member of the House of Guise, one of the most important French families. She was a close friend of the Medicis and very interested in all things Italian, especially Italian music. She actually wrote off to Italy to order copies of Mazzaferrata’s music be sent to her. We’re guessing, then, that she must have had it performed by her musicians which, of course, meant Charpentier himself probably sung it. 

The physical house of the Guise family was known as the Hôtel de Guise. Marie de Lorraine maintained her own musicians, most of whom were actually domestic servants in the vast household as well as having to perform duties in the chapel at the Hôtel. Charpentier was taken in by her and he lived and worked there for nearly twenty years, composing music for almost every single occasion which arose during that time. 

When her nephew, who would have continued the Guise dynasty, died in 1671 she used her vast wealth as the surviving member to fund projects close to her heart and her staff were rewarded generously. 

Without Mademoiselle de Guise, then, this inspiration for this project would never have come about. Our big purple tree is inspired by a cartouche underneath her portrait which depicts a solitary tree among a forest of stumps, showing her position as the last surviving Guise. Under it is the motto “succisas dat conjectare superstes”:

“The survivor bears witness to the fallen.”