‘Gaillard’ Musette


19th century

Not on view

Although this instrument is unsigned, it is typical of the ‘Gaillard’ musettes presumably produced in the late 19th century, which all present similar features: small, mouthblown bagpipes made from ivory, with lavish textile bags. The blowpipe, melodic pipe, and parallel drone, as well as the round-headed stocks, are entirely made of ivory. All three pipes are adorned with a raised ring within which are cut hemispherical beads, a pattern found across many ‘Gaillard’ musettes. The main stock is embellished with a helical-grooved ring. The leather bag is covered with a rich dark pink patterned textile that textile expert Elena Kanagy-Loux identified as possibly being Chinese, and adorned with gold-colored trimmings, a gold ribbon and gold fringes around the stock openings.

‘Gaillard’ musettes were instruments that were made for display; it is unlikely that they were played as the instruments have uneven internal bores (Libin 1997:172). They feature on late nineteenth century and early twentieth century paintings as props for romantic portraits of ladies (Montbel 2017). Despite their appearance in late nineteenth century, these objects were made to fit into a French eighteenth century aesthetic. The delicate textile bags, the elaborate trimmings and ribbons, the ivory parallel pipes, and the overall appearance of these musettes place them in the same aesthetic continuum as the baroque musette, an instrument played by the French upper class in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They are intentionally confusing in terms of their dating: until Laurence Libin’s research published in 1997, many of these instruments were assumed to be from the eighteenth century, as far back as 1700. To add to this confusion, some of the textiles used for Gaillard musette covers could be from the eighteenth century, firmly placing them in a pre-revolutionary aesthetic.

These instruments were commercial products most likely made for wealthy customers with a penchant for antiquities, which included musical instrument collectors (Libin 1997:170). Instruments that feature the same aesthetic features as this musette are marked P.G. or P. Gaillard. To date, no bagpipe workshop with this name has been identified in France or Belgium. Eric Montbel suggests that Gaillard might not an instrument maker at all: this could be the stamp of an art dealer, a collector or a maker of fine objects (Montbel 2017:568). The success of this model amongst the collectors is evidenced by the presence of multiple examples of these bagpipes in Europe’s and North America’s private and museum collections (see Libin’s list 1997:176-7).

(Cassandre Balosso-Bardin, 2023)

Technical description

Ivory conical single chanter with flaring bell 278 mm, cork-lined tenon, 7/1 holes, bottom hole doubled, 2 ventholes, reed missing (typically cane double reed on metal staple);
1 ivory drone in 2 sections 195 mm, cylindrical bore, reed missing;
Ivory cylindrical blowpipe 127 mm with leather flapper valve, dressed leather bag with pink silk tapestry cover with beige trim, gold braid and green fringe;
2 cylindrical ivory stocks;
Chanter, blowpipe and drone with turned bead and grooved decoration, stocks with grooving only.

Laurence LIBIN, 1997. ‘Seeking the source of the Gaillard cornemuses’, Musique-Images-Instruments n° 3, p.168-177.

Montbel, Eric, 2017. ‘Les Musettes Gaillard des cornemuses d’ameublement’ in La Cabrette - Histoire et technique d’une cornemuse, ed. A. Ricros, E. Montbel, D. Perre. Riom: Amta, p.559- 585.

‘Gaillard’ Musette, ivory, sheepskin, silk, French

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