This article addresses the transatlantic financing of pre-revolutionary French salons and the amateur music-making that featured within them. It does so by reconstructing the context of a paradigmatic image of enlightened leisure: a portrait by Louis Carrogis (known as Carmontelle) inscribed “Mlle Desgots, from Saint-Domingue, with her Black servant Laurent, 1766.” The likeness is representative of Carmontelle’s style in subject and setting. It features a fashionable noblewoman—the French-Caribbean heiress Charlotte Louise-Desgots—who plays a gilded harpsichord. What is unusual about the scene is the identity of Desgots’s interlocutor; the aristocrat poses with a teenaged valet de chambre, Laurent, whom her family had enslaved. The soundscape evoked in the drawing—the domestic repertoire of the midcentury galant—is often described as a sonorous analogue to conventions of salon politesse. And yet, Laurent’s forcible participation in the artistic exchange destabilizes this “sociable” analytic framework. Tracing Laurent’s experiences in the decades before and after the portrait was made underscores how the dynamics of Caribbean slavery were inflected in the most prestigious of Parisian cultural spaces, and through the most anodyne and “convivial” of eighteenth-century sound worlds. Like Desgots, the musical engagement Laurent demonstrated was the result of an education attained in the metropole. Unlike Desgots, this training was not gifted for the pursuit of leisure but imposed in the formation of labor, as adornment to the artistic habits of his repatriated colonial enslavers.

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