Robert de Visée

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Robert de Visée (ca. 1655 – 1732/1733) was a lutenist, guitarist, theorbist and viol player at the court of the French kings Louis XIV and Louis XV, as well as a singer and composer for lute, theorbo and guitar.


Robert de Visée’s place and date of birth are unknown. He probably knew Francesco Corbetta and would have been familiar with his music. Fétis (1865, pp. 365–66) claimed that he studied with Corbetta and this information has been repeated uncritically in later sources including Strizich and Ledbetter 2001. It is however unsupported by any documentary evidence (Charnassé, Andia, and Rebours 2001, p. 21). He is first mentioned (by Le Gallois) in 1680, and at about that time became a chamber musician to Louis XIV, in which capacity he often performed at court. In 1709 he was appointed as a singer in the royal chamber, and in 1719 he was named “Guitar Master of the King” (Maître de Guitare du Roi) Louis XV, the ten-year-old great-grandson of Louis XIV who succeeded to the throne in 1715. Jean Rousseau reported in a letter of 1688 that he was a respected musician at Versailles, and also played the viol (Strizich and Ledbetter 2001). The last payment in his name in state documents is dated 1732. It is to be assumed that he died about that time (Charnassé, Andia, and Rebours 2001, p. 25).

Visée published two books of guitar music which contain twelve suites between them, as well as a few separate pieces: Livre de guitare dédié au roi (Paris, 1682) and Livre de pièces pour la guitare (Paris 1686). He also published a collection of pieces for the theorbo and lute Pièces de théorbe et de luth (Paris, 1716); these are in staff notation rather than tablature and may also be performed as ensemble pieces. The contents of all three books are tabulated with incipits and concordances in Rebours 2000. He composed many other pieces for theorbo and Baroque lute (the bulk of which are preserved in the Saizenay Ms.)

Complete index of de Visée’s pieces for the guitar:

  • 1682 “Livre de Guitarre, dédie au roi”:
  • Suite № 1 in A Minor

Prélude Allemande Courante Sarabande Gigue Passacaille Gavotte Gavotte Bourrée

  • Suite № 2 in A Major

Allemande Courante Sarabande

  • Suite № 3 in D Minor

Prélude Allemande Courante Courante Sarabande Sarabande Gigue Passacaille Gavotte Gavotte Menuet Rondeau Menuet Rondeau Bourrée

  • Suite № 4 in G Minor

Prélude Allemande Courante Double de la Courante Sarabande Gigue Menuet Gavotte

  • Suite № 5 in G Major

Sarabande Sarabande Gigue

  • Suite № 6 in C Minor

Prélude Tombeau de Mr. Francisque Corbet Courante Sarabande Sarabande en Rondeau Gavotte

  • Suite № 7 in C Major

Prélude Allemande Courante Sarabande Gigue, a la Maniere Angloise Gavotte Menuet

  • Chaconne (F Major)
  • Suite № 8 in G Major

Prélude (Accord Nouveau) Allemande Courante Sarabande Gigue Sarabande Chaconne Gavotte Menuet Bourrée

  • 1686 Livre de Pieces pour la Guitarre:
  • Suite № 9 in D Minor

Prélude Allemande Courante Sarabande Gigue Gavotte Bourrée Menuet Passacaille Menuet

  • Suite № 10 in G Minor

Prélude Allemande Courante Sarabande Gigue Menuet Chaconne Gavotte Bourrée Menuet

Sarabande (A Minor)

Gigue (A Minor)

Sarabande (A Major)

Menuet (A Major)

  • Suite № 11 in B Minor

Prélude Allemande Sarabande Gigue Passacaille

Suite № 12 in E Minor Sarabande Menuet Passacaille

Menuet (C Major)

  • Manuscript Pieces:
  • Pieces in A minor

Prélude Allemande Villanelle (& Contrepartie)

  • Pieces in A major

Prélude Rondeau

  • Pieces in C major

Courante Gigue

  • Pieces in D minor

Allemande “La Royalle” Sarabande Masquerade Gigue Gavotte Chaconne

  • Pieces in D major

Sarabande Gavotte Chaconne Gavotte Rondeau (& Contrepartie)

  • Pieces in G minor

Prélude Prélude Allemande Sarabande Gavotte Gavotte en Rondeau Ouverture de la Grotte De Versaille (de Lully) Entrée d’Appollon (de Lully)

  • Pieces in G major

Allemande Courante Sarabande Gigue Gigue Musette (Rondeau)


  • Charnassé, Hélène, Rafael Andia, and Gérard Rebours. 2001. The Guitar Books of Robert de Visée. Paris: Editions Musicales Transatlantiques.
  • Fétis, François-Joseph. 1865. Bibliographie universelle des musiciens, second edition. Paris: Firmin-Didot.
  • Rebours, Gérard Rebours. 2000. Robert de Visée: Thematic Index with a Table of Concordances. Lyon: Symétrie.
  • Rebours, Gérard. 2005. "The Baroque Guitar in France and Its Two Main Figures: Robert de Visée and François Campion”. Michaelsteiner Konferenzberichte 66:195–210.
  • Strizich, Robert, and David Ledbetter. 2001. "Visée, Robert de". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

External links