Perrault was the bold leader of a new cultural line minimizing the past to better glorify the reign underway. In the early 1680s, he imagined to devote to the arts the ceiling of the cabinet of his Parisian mansion on an overall area of 8.5 x 4.5 m.
The eleven elements of the ceiling are painted by eleven different artists. The objective of Perrault is to replace the traditional list of seven liberal arts by a new list of eight arts more suited to the life of his time. Only the music appears in both lists.
The decor was decidedly not the main goal of Perrault. His house was destroyed in 1683 to enable the realization of the Place des Victoires and the painted ceiling has probably never been assembled. In 1690, three years after launching in the literary world the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, he published a small book illustrated with the eleven images to explain and promote his theories on modern arts and sciences.
We may consider that all the paintings were still in the ownership of Perrault in 1690. They subsequently disappeared excepted Eloquence which is currently preserved in the museum of Brest.
La Musique has just resurfaced. This oil on canvas 98 x 152 cm was painted by Antoine Coypel, aged just over twenty years but whose early skill was famous. This painting is estimated $ 1.5 million, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on January 29, lot 87.
This work is a complex allegory cleverly built around a woman and five young children. The woman plays an antique lyre decorated with a sun (the emblem of the king), while the children open the future with more modern instruments. A lyrical staged scene in the background along with stacked books referring to recent musicians reinforce the modernist allegory.
These six figures probably represent the five natural children of Louis XIV and Montespan around their new gouvernante Madame de Maintenon significantly rejuvenated to please the court.