The Harp

Figure 1. The harp of 1765, as depicted in Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. Notice the pegs and fine details of the instrument.

For the 18th century French elite, music was not only a social pleasure, but also an activity that equated a life of privilege, refinement, and wealth. An interest in music was “central to the concept and practice of artful living in the 18th century” (Hellman 45). An essential part of the daily pleasures of the rich, music evoked a way of life for the upper class that encouraged social interactions, created rules detailing the navigation of musical instruments, and resulted in specific societal attitudes towards music. This is especially seen in the musical instrument of the harp, which, because of its size and delicate sound, emphasized such notions (Figure 1).

Figure 2. Marie Antoinette playing her harp in morning dress. Painted in 1774 by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty.

The primary  roles of music for the wealthy were for entertainment, enjoyment, and appreciation. Only the upper class could afford to study music for its own sake, and so they were usually the buyers of music and employers of musicians (Schulenberg 8). For the upper class, the presence of the harp created social situations—a performance or music lesson—that led to intimate exchanges.  For Marie Antoinette, the harp was the perfect way to entertain and perhaps show off for her guests.  It  also allowed for a more intimate perspective on the Queen, as in the small scene of her in which she plays the harp (Figure 2). Not yet dressed in her full regalia, Marie Antoinette wears a morning gown while she elegantly holds herself in the center of the room—proving, despite her casual ensemble, she is still very much a Queen.

Figure 3. Jean-Michel Le Jeune Moreau’s 1789 print, L’Accord Parfait

The harp was not only a musical instrument, but also a social prop that, if successfully used, could highlight the body to its advantage. A way to monitor the leisure acts of privileged society, objects “simultaneously scripted action and invited manipulation, and could be negotiated effortlessly only through great familiarity, attention, and mastery” (Hellman 422). The harp had the capacity to “witness and verbally represent human interactions” (Hellman 416).  In L’Accord Parfait, the harp is the central focus of the scene because its prominent place  results in intimacy, sensuality, and romance (Figure 3). The music teacher uses the harp as an excuse to stand close to the young woman, as he places his hand over hers. Their sensual eye contact is emphasized even more by the disbelief of the seated young man. The harp proves to be a powerful instrument of seduction and a sexual stimulant for harp players and spectators (Hellman 47). The young woman hugs her thighs suggestively around the harp, even revealing a popped ankle. This was a particular trait of the pedal harp, which could show off “a delicate foot and a well turned ankle” (Hellman 47). Though she might have been confined and immobilized by the bulk of the harp, the young woman successfully adjusts her body to communicate sensuality and elegance.

Figure 4. Rose Adélaïde Ducreux's Self Portrait with a Harp embodied the 18th century ideals of femininity.

For the wealthy, musicality was a desirable trait associated with high status and taste. Musical aptitude was seen as a “sign of refined femininity, greatly enhancing a young woman’s marriage prospects” (Hellman 45). In Self Portrait with a Harp, the woman asserts her femininity through the symbolism of the harp, which she positions herself against to accentuate her figure and delicate hands. For women specifically, musical proficiency “was an essential component in the formation of elite social personal” (Hellman 45). More specifically, of all the musical instruments associated with women, “the harp was viewed as especially apposite for young women” (Hellman 45). As shown in Figure 4, the young woman successfully communicates her femininity, fashionability, and high status through this portrait.




Dagoty, Gautier Jean-Baptiste. Marie Antoinette Portrait with Harp. 1774. France.

Ducreu, Adélaïde Rose. Self Portrait with a Harp. 1790. Metropolitan Museum of Art.                     New York, NY

Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, HARPE,       Planche II, vol. 5 (1765).

 Hellman, Mimi. “Furniture, Sociability, and the Work of Leisure in Eighteenth-      Century France.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 32, no. 4 (1999): 415-445.

Hellman, Mimi. “ Interior Motives: Seduction by Decoration in Eighteenth-Century          France” in Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton, Dangerous Liaisons : Fashion,        Furniture in Eighteenth-Century France, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Moreau (Le Jeune), Jean-Michel. Monument du costume physique et morale de la fin du    dix-huitième siècle. 1789. Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA.

Schulenberg, David. Music of the Baroque. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

Weber, William. “Learned And General Musical Taste In Eighteenth-Century France.”      Past and Present 89.1 (1980): 58-89.

Nora Turriago

114 Responses to The Harp

  1. Pingback: Marie Antoinette & the harp | Queen City Harpist

  2. Pingback: Discount Coupons for Bigrock

  3. Pingback: Mantelpiece - This Home Designs Ideas

  4. Pingback: help writing college essay

  5. Pingback: nursing dissertation

  6. Pingback: custom essay writing toronto

  7. Pingback: essay helper

  8. Pingback: cheap essay writing service us

  9. Pingback: need help with research paper

  10. Pingback: thesis proposal writing service

  11. Pingback: thesis proposal example

  12. Pingback: write my paper for me

  13. Pingback: cialis

  14. Pingback: cialis buy online

  15. Pingback: cialis for sale

  16. Pingback: cialis for women

  17. Pingback: viagra substitute

  18. Pingback: viagra for men

  19. Pingback: viagra without prescription

  20. Pingback: canadian pharmacy viagra

  21. Pingback: ...

  22. Pingback: uk pharmacy

  23. Pingback: mexican pharmacy online medications

  24. Pingback: best canadian online pharmacies

  25. Pingback: canadian pharmacies that ship to us

  26. Pingback: viagra

  27. Pingback: best price cialis 20mg

  28. Pingback: walmart price for cialis

  29. Pingback: cialis brand no prescription needed

  30. Pingback: where to buy cialis in singapore

  31. Pingback: is cialis as effective as viagra

  32. Pingback: viagra low cost

  33. Pingback: cialis vs viagra differences

  34. Pingback: buy an essay cheap

  35. Pingback: phd thesis writing services

  36. Pingback: best college essay editing service

  37. Pingback: phd online

  38. Pingback: best custom essay site

  39. Pingback: writing your dissertation

  40. Pingback: where to buy college papers

  41. Pingback: best deals on cialis super active plus online

  42. Pingback: cialis australia online shopping

  43. Pingback: free cialis coupon

  44. Pingback: pharmacy technician classes online free

  45. Pingback: canada drugs pharmacy

  46. Pingback: cialis soft online

  47. Pingback: Viagra Oral Jelly

  48. Pingback: canada medication pharmacy

  49. Pingback: cialis 20mg

  50. Pingback: cialis with dapoxetine buy

  51. Pingback: best prices on cialis online

  52. Pingback: what to tell doctor to get viagra

  53. Pingback: viagra med sprit

  54. Pingback: natural alternatives to viagra

  55. Pingback: cialis online without prescription

  56. Pingback: does cialis make you bigger

  57. Pingback: cialis coupon voucher

  58. Pingback: cialis 20 mg vs 10mg

  59. Pingback: stop canadian pharmacy emails

  60. Pingback: cialis and alcohol symptoms

  61. Pingback: zanax online pharmacy

  62. Pingback: cvs pharmacy inside target store near me

  63. Pingback: can i order prescription drugs from canada

  64. Pingback: price of cialis

  65. Pingback: viagra super active

  66. Pingback: does viagra raise your blood pressure

  67. Pingback: accredited canadian pharmacy

  68. Pingback: pharmacy technician continuing education free online

  69. Pingback:

  70. Pingback: military viagra spending

  71. Pingback: foods to avoid when taking amlodipine

  72. Pingback: is atorvastatin the same as simvastatin

  73. Pingback: what are the side effects of prozac?

  74. Pingback: how much is prilosec

  75. Pingback: drugs not to take with seroquel

  76. Pingback: sertraline cost

  77. Pingback: lexapro bipolar

  78. Pingback: did safaree sleep with lyrica

  79. Pingback: managing cymbalta withdrawal

  80. Pingback: quinapril hydrochlorothiazide

  81. Pingback: who makes atorvastatin

  82. Pingback: viagra sale in new zealand

  83. Pingback: how to wean off of escitalopram

  84. Pingback: pills like cialis

  85. Pingback: liquid cialis

  86. Pingback: cialis cheap prices

  87. Pingback: compare duloxetine and escitalopram

  88. Pingback: 1

  89. Pingback: how to get cheap cialis

  90. Pingback: ivermectin drops

  91. Pingback: ivermectin injectable dosage for horses

  92. Pingback: ivermectin eczema

  93. Pingback: ivermectin in humans side effects

  94. Pingback: tractor supply ivermectin injectable

  95. Pingback: ivermectin protocol

  96. Pingback: ivermectin nobel prize

  97. Pingback: cheap daily cialis

  98. Pingback: buy viagra uk no prescription

  99. Pingback: otc erection pills

  100. Pingback: cheap viagra mexico

  101. Pingback: play craps game

  102. Pingback: 100 mg sildenafil price

  103. Pingback: cialis 5mg generic no prescription

  104. Pingback: 25 mg viagra price

  105. Pingback: cialis 10mg price

  106. Pingback: viagra sale australia

  107. Pingback: men viagra pills

  108. Pingback: buy viagra without prescription

  109. Pingback: cialis without prescriptions

  110. Pingback: cialis online purchase

  111. Pingback: generic viagra cost at cvs

  112. Pingback: how often can i take viagra

  113. Pingback: viagra porn

  114. Pingback: best place to buy cialis

Leave a Reply