Jacques de Vismes

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Anne-Pierre-Jacques de Vismes, or Devismes, (1745, Paris – 1819, Caudebec-en-Caux) was an 18th–19th-century French man of letters and musicographer.

Closely associated to the powerful interests of the ferme générale, he managed to get himself appointed head of the académie royale de musique in 1778 with the support of his sister, Adelaide Vismes, lady-in-waiting of Queen Marie Antoinette, and the husband of the former, the influential fermier-general Jean-Benjamin de La Borde. His attempts to reform this aging institution that was the Paris Opera faced continued opposition from the artistic staff. In 1780, financial difficulties finally brought him down and the opera was put under direct and permanent guardianship of royal power through the Menus-Plaisirs du Roi.


Anne-Pierre-Jacques de Vismes du Valgay was the son of Martin de Vismes, secrétaire du roi [fr] and Louise Legendre. He had two brothers: Joseph de Vismes, a military and Alphonse de Vismes, a playwright as well as one sister, Adélaïde de Vismes, lady-in-waiting of Marie-Antoinette who married Jean-Benjamin de La Borde, first valet de chambre of Louis XV.

Vismes was Deputy Director of the farms when, in September 1777, he tendered the governance of the Royal Academy of Music. His offerings, which were accepted, were that he would give a bond of 500,000 livres tournois, the city of Paris would pay him an annual allowance of 80,000 livres tournois and that his privilege would be extended to twelve years.

Entered in the exercise of its concession 1 April 1778, he displayed great activity. In less than a year, he revived the main works of Lully, Rameau and Gluck, brought the first troupe of jesters ever heard in Paris, began to accustom the public to musical intermèdes by Paisiello, Anfossi and gave two operas by Piccinni, Roland and Atys.

The presentation of these two plays burst the storm that had raised against Vismes' attempts at reform of the abuses that vitiated the administration. Lullists, Ramists and Gluckists united against the new music, and Piccinists, although supported by the queen, were powerless to ensure Vismes against the attacks of his enemies. Epigrams were followed by cabals; Fans powerful by their wealth or their position, La Borde the financial, agents of the minister Maurepas, encroached on his authority. When he offered to terminate his lease, the Conseil d'État accepted his proposition (19 February 1779). However, he remained a director, but under the control of the provost. The intrigues did not stop, and the Conseil d'État by judgment (7 March 1780), took his position and withdrew the privilege of the Opera to the city to return it to the king stating that "Vismes did not possess the required knowledge."

Vismes returned to the Opera in 1799, as co-administrator. He became director 18 March 1800 only to see his functions abolished by order on 28 December that same year. He then retired in Normandy, where he died.

De Vismes wrote Pasilogie, ou la Musique considérée comme langue universelle ; Paris, 1806, in 8° ; Éléonore d’Amboise, duchesse de Bretagne, historical novel, Paris, 1807, 2 vol. in-12, Recherches nouvelles sur l’origine et la destruction des pyramides d’Égypte, suivies d’une Dissertation sur la fin du globe terrestre, Paris, 1812, in 8°.

He gave Théâtre Montansier two opéras-comiques, la Double récompense, Eugène et Lanval, both presented in 1800.

He was the brother of playwright and librettist Alphonse de Vismes called Saint-Alphonse. His wife, Jeanne-Hypolyte Moyroud, born c. 1767 in Lyon, composed the music for Praxitèle, given at the Opéra in 1800.


  • Ferdinand Hoefer, « Anne-Pierre-Jacques de Vismes », Nouvelle Biographie générale, t. 46, Paris, Firmin-Didot, 1866, p. 298-9.

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Preceded by
Pierre Montan Berton
Director of
Académie Royale de Musique

Succeeded by
Pierre Montan Berton, Antoine Dauvergne, François-Joseph Gossec
Preceded by
Louis-Joseph Francœur
Commissioneer of
Théâtre des Arts

Succeeded by
Jacques Cellerier