(kindly signalled by Theda Ingrid Schultz von Dratzig, Musicologist and Music Historian)

Francesco Bellinzani was a nobleman in Mantua and auditor for the Duke of Mantua; for the Duke, he also served as a member of the Duke’s Council in Paris, and as his Ambassador to the Court of France. He settled in Paris at age 24 and was naturalized 15 years later.

In 1658 the finances of Mantua are in disarray, and the Duke owes a large sum to Cardinal Mazzarino (1602-1661); the legendary Ministry of Finance of the King of France Colbert (1619 - 1683), with help from Bellinzani and money borrowed from the Cardinal buys from Carlo Gonzaga (the Duke of Mantua) some French properties and, this time with the King’s money, a part of the Duchy of Mantua itself.

Later on, Colbert appoints Bellinzani Director of the Paris Chamber of Insurance that he founded in 1669. Francesco Bellinzani is known for being a shrewd, versatile man, a diplomat, a great help to Colbert. Thanks to the intercession of Cardinal Mazarin, Bellinzani is appointed adviser to the king.

In spite of some of his detractors ho describe him as “a Mantuan of obscure origin that revolves around the Cardinal”, Bellinzani’s praise comes by Louis XIV himself, who thus lists his qualities: intelligence, honesty, and good conduct, the skills required to deal with the most important affairs of the kingdom.

In business disputes presented to Council members in Paris, where opinions are shared by Bellinzani, his vote will be the deciding one.

In 1677 it was he who conducted an investigation on the different weights used in France’s Provinces and Marches, revealing the possibility for the King to double the branding rights for gold and silver.

Lachesnaye des Bois, a composer and a dancer, calls Francesco Bellinzani intendente du commerce de France (an intendant of commerce of France) but the Dictionnaire biographique des Français describes him as a trafficant, une créature du Cardinal Mazarin (a trafficker, a creature of Cardinal Mazarin).

Eventually, Bellinzani will be accused of having been bribed and even of having required bribes; after Colbert’s death (1683), he will be jailed, tried and sentenced for “abuse, embezzlement and regulation violations”.

Bellinzani dies in prison on May 13, 1684 in Vincennes; the following 17 June 1684, the court confirms the sentence requiring his heirs to pay back to the King the amount of 200,000 Louis “for the amounts improperly receives by said Bellinzani in the form of pensions, gratuities… We are also aware of one of his male sons who is in and out of prison, and known as mauvais sujet forte”.

The house of Bellinzani was also notable in its artistic virtues. Francesco Bellinzani had a great interest in Chansons, brought Italian music to France (Giacomo Carissimi) and was a main actor in the anti-Lully clique. Being familiar with both French and Italian music thanks to his close relations familiar with Italian and French music as a favourite in the circle of Cardinal Mazarin and a protégé of the powerful Colbert, and thanks to the support of Colbert himself, Bellinzani could play an important role in the development of French opera in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Mademoiselle Anne, daughter of Francis, married to a senior official in Paris, became proficient in astronomy and also dedicated herself passionately to literature, and was known as lettre-écrivain et romancier (letter-writer and romancer).

Antoine (1678-1719), son of Anne, distinguished himself as a skilled poet, and earned himself a place on the Parnasse François by Evrard Titon du Tillet, a sort of important biographical chronicle collecting short stories and the lives of famous French poets and musicians under Louis XIV. Counsellor of the Court of Aydes, the libertine Antoine wrote, among others, two Epigrams based on Pièces libres (Licentious Poems) printed in London in 1738, these are actually “lewd jokes in verse”, a genre that enjoyed great fame in the eighteenth century, especially in France, where anti-clerical and anti-religious themes were de rigueur. Other news indicate how the Bellinzani-Ferrand also had contacts with Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Francois Ferrand, sister-in-law of Anne Bellinzani, was a friend of Etienne Charpentier, sister of Marc-Antoine. Besides, the Bellinzanis also were part of a music circle that the French composer was also present at the beginning of 1670. Lastly, Antoine Ferrand-Bellinzani and Charpentier were both Parnassiens.

Davide Marsano

Traslation by Walter Vannini