Françoise Duparc was first taught by her sculptor-father. She served an apprenticeship, then worked in several different cities around Europe, from London to Wroclaw. She was admitted to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1776 - one of only four women permitted membership. She died two years later, leaving 41 paintings in her studio, of which only four have been verified as hers. Her subjects are ‘real’ people - those who work for a living, rather than the aristocracy. The old lady in this painting is reminiscent of the old lady in Grün’s poem of nearly a century later. There is a world of experience in the face:
I have an old aunt
Who has an old book.
In the old book
Lies an old, fragile leaf.
The hands also are fragile
That first plucked it in spring.
What ails the old lady?
She cries every time she sees it.
Antonia Bembo, who was a contemporary of such composers as Strozzi, Caccini and Jacquet de la Guerre, is even less-known than these names, perhaps in part due to the existence of only five of her manuscripts, extensive though those are. Born and married in Venice, she escaped from her embezzler husband and fled to France. She had had a lifelong admiration of Louis XIV, and her did indeed recognize her talent as a musician, rewarding her with a pension that allowed her to compose in peace. She settled at the Petite Union Chrétienne,, a charitable community of religious sisters. Her music ranges from the religious to the secular. Today’s offering is the 6th Psalm from ‘Les sept Psaumes’, settings of French psalm paraphrases by Elisabeth-Sophie Cheron. The instrumentation of these range from solo voice to vocal quartet, all accompanied by two melodic instruments and continuo.