Music in the life of Maria Klementyna Sobieska and her sons
Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów

Passage to knowledge

Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów

Music in the life of Maria Klementyna Sobieska and her sons Aneta Markuszewska
Maria Klementyna Sobieska

In the seventeenth and eighteenth century the craft of music—both playing and singing—became a part of the canon of proper education for aristocrats and wealthy burghers. Young girls received instruction primarily in playing keyboard instruments—harpsichord, clavichord, or pianoforte. Boys would choose between violin and cello, the latter being perceived as unsuitable for handling by ladies. Wind instruments were also deemed unbecoming of the fair sex, like the flute, which gravely distorted the player’s facial expression. Maria Klementyna Sobieska figured among comprehensively educated young women: during her early days in Oława she acquired fluency in three languages—Polish, French, and Hochdeutsch—as well as Latin and Italian. Already during her sojourn in Rome, English tourists complemented her perfect command of her husband’s native tongue. With her excellent manners, she was considered a charming lady, and she loved music. Though it has not yet been established what instruments she played, it would be hard to imagine her unable to perform a simple piece for harpsichord or lute.

Klementyna’s passion for music also moved her and her husband to organise private concerts for the Roman elites at their residence, the Palazzo del Re. According to an account by an English gentleman, the Stuarts employed the finest artists in the city. Klementyna and James usually treated their guests to performances by Stuart’s favourite singer, Pasqualino Tiepoli, but on a certain April night of 1723, the visitors at the palace listened to Faustina Bordoni, a famous performer who was subsequently honoured with a medal bearing the portraits of the hosts.

Born in 1720 and 1725 the sons of Maria Klementyna and James III took lessons on several instruments since an early age. The elder, first-born Charles, exhibited particular musical talents. Both boys also loved to dance; their abilities are recorded in coloured miniatures found at Bologna. James III also invited actors of a marionette theatre to his palace to entertain the boys. Like their parents, Charles and Henry liked the opera. After the death of Maria Klementyna the theatres of Rome dedicated several works to them. The young Stuarts became important patrons of art—particularly the younger Henry.

Translation: Antoni Górny

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