Joseph Marie Terray

Last updated
Joseph Marie Terray, by Alexander Roslin, 1774; the red calf-bound portfolio symbolic of his appointment stands on the writing-table behind him. Joseph Marie Terray.jpg
Joseph Marie Terray, by Alexander Roslin, 1774; the red calf-bound portfolio symbolic of his appointment stands on the writing-table behind him.

Joseph Marie Terray (9 December 1715 in Boën 18 February 1778) was a Controller-General of Finances during the reign of Louis XV of France, an agent of fiscal reform.

The Controller-General or Comptroller-General of Finances was the name of the minister in charge of finances in France from 1661 to 1791. The position replaced the former position of Superintendent of Finances, which was abolished with the downfall of Nicolas Fouquet.

Louis XV of France Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre 1715–1774

Louis XV, known as Louis the Beloved, was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France from 1 September 1715 until his death in 1774. He succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV at the age of five. Until he reached maturity on 15 February 1723, the kingdom was ruled by Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, as Regent of France. Cardinal Fleury was his chief minister from 1726 until the Cardinal's death in 1743, at which time the young king took sole control of the kingdom.



Terray, tonsured but not a priest, was appointed in 1736 an ecclesiastical counsellor in the Parlement of Paris, where he specialized in financial matters. In 1764 he was made abbot in commendam of the rich abbey of Molesme. The support of his uncle, physician in ordinary to the duchess of Orléans, mother of the Regent, eventually rendered him rich, enabling him to set aside his former circumspect style of life and openly seat his mistresses at his table. [1] His genuine capacity attracted the attention of Louis XV's chancellor, René Nicolas de Maupeou, who made him controller general in December 1769. His first big venture was helping Mme du Barry's partisans [2] to bring down the minister of foreign affairs, Étienne François, duc de Choiseul the very next year by demonstrating that the government could not afford to go to war with Great Britain. "Intelligent, plain-speaking, hard-working and rich", [3] Terray spent the next few years stabilizing the finances of the country by repudiating part of the national debt, suspending payments on the interest on government bonds, and levying forced loans. These reforms aroused mass protest among nobles and commoners alike, which forced Maupeou to strip the Parlements of their political power in 1771, so that further reforms could be enacted.

Tonsure hairstyle

Tonsure is the practice of cutting or shaving some or all of the hair on the scalp, as a sign of religious devotion or humility. The term originates from the Latin word tōnsūra and referred to a specific practice in medieval Catholicism, abandoned by papal order in 1972. Tonsure can also refer to the secular practice of shaving all or part of the scalp to show support or sympathy, or to designate mourning. Current usage more generally refers to cutting or shaving for monks, devotees, or mystics of any religion as a symbol of their renunciation of worldly fashion and esteem.

In canon law, commendam was a form of transferring an ecclesiastical benefice in trust to the custody of a patron. The phrase in commendam was originally applied to the provisional occupation of an ecclesiastical benefice, which was temporarily without an actual occupant, in contrast to the conferral of a title, in titulum, which was applied to the regular and unconditional occupation of a benefice.

Étienne François, duc de Choiseul French general, diplomat and statesman

Étienne-François, Marquis de Stainville, 1er Duc de Choiseul was a French military officer, diplomat and statesman. Between 1758 and 1761, and 1766 and 1770, he was Foreign Minister of France and had a strong influence on France's global strategy throughout the period. He is closely associated with France's defeat in the Seven Years War and subsequent efforts to rebuild French prestige.

Terray continued his overhaul of the financial system by reforming the collection of both the vingtième (a five percent tax on income) and the capitation (head tax) of Paris and renegotiating more advantageous agreements with the farmers general, the financiers who held the right to collect indirect taxes. These measures were responsible for a large increase in government revenue; however, he continued to face opposition, particularly over his restriction of free trade of grain, [4] which opponents charged was part of a "Pact of Famine" with Louis XV designed to allow the king to profit from artificially high grain prices. When Louis XV died in May 1774, his successor Louis XVI bowed to pressure and dismissed both Terray and Maupeou. [5]

The vingtième was an income tax of the ancien régime in France. It was abolished during the French Revolution.

Louis XVI of France King of France and Navarre

Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as Citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new Dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.

Patron of the arts

Terray's position enabled him to become a lavish patron of the arts. His rebuilding of his hôtel in rue Nôtre-Dame-des-Champs, c. 1769–74, was the last commission of Antoine-Mathieu Le Carpentier (1709–1773), who did not live to see its completion. [6] The Hôtel Terray, "notable for the good arrangement of its rooms", later housed the Collège Stanislas and was demolished in 1849, when the rue Stanislas was extended through its garden, [7] leaving an isolated pavilion. [8] Pairs of paintings he commissioned from Nicolas Bernard Lépicié in 1775 (an Interior of a Customs-house and an Interior of a Market [9] ) and from Claude-Joseph Vernet in 1779, [10] displayed a strong didactic bias reflecting Terray's concerns with the economics of commerce, rather than a choice by the artists [11] From the history painter Nicolas-Guy Brenet he commissioned two subjects, equally referent to his official position; one, Cincinnatus Made Dictator was a clear reference to the enlightened despotism under which he operated; the other made a less open reference to his reputation as a speculator in grain: The Roman Farmer, in which Caius Furius Cressinus was wrongly accused of sorcery on account of the abundance of his crops: it had been exhibited at the Salon of 1775. [12] Not all subjects of his commissions were so severe: from Jean-Jacques Caffiéri he commissioned a pair of table bronzes in 1777, on galante subjects: Cupid Vanquishing Pan (Wallace Collection, London) and Friendship Surprised by Love (Toledo Museum of Art). A small marble Bartholomew by Pierre Le Gros the Younger was purchased from the estate of the painter Jean-François de Troy, the head of the French Academy in Rome. [13] Among the rich furnishings of the Hôtel Terray was a secretary desk by Bernard II van Risamburgh. [14] His funeral monument was sculpted by Clodion. [15]

<i>Hôtel particulier</i> townhouse of a grand sort

An hôtel particulier is a townhouse of a grand sort, comparable to the British townhouse. Whereas an ordinary maison (house) was built as part of a row, sharing party walls with the houses on either side and directly fronting on a street, an hôtel particulier was often free-standing, and by the 18th century it would always be located entre cour et jardin: between the cour d'honneur and the garden behind. There are hôtels particuliers in many large cities in France.

Pavilion type of building

In architecture, a pavilion has several meanings. In architectural terminology it refers to a subsidiary building that is either positioned separately or as an attachment to a main building. Often its function makes it an object of pleasure.

Nicolas Bernard Lépicié French painter

Nicolas Bernard Lépicié was an 18th-century French painter, the son of two well-known engravers at the time, François-Bernard Lépicié and Renée-Élisabeth Marlié, was introduced to the artistic and cultural environment by his parents.

After his death the collection was dispersed by his nephew at auction in 1779. [16]

Related Research Articles

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin 18th-century French painter

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities. Carefully balanced composition, soft diffusion of light, and granular impasto characterize his work.

Jean-Antoine Watteau French painter of the Rococo era

Jean-Antoine Watteau, better known as Antoine Watteau, was a French painter whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement, as seen in the tradition of Correggio and Rubens. He revitalized the waning Baroque style, shifting it to the less severe, more naturalistic, less formally classical, Rococo. Watteau is credited with inventing the genre of fêtes galantes, scenes of bucolic and idyllic charm, suffused with a theatrical air. Some of his best known subjects were drawn from the world of Italian comedy and ballet.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard 18th and 19th-century French Rococo painter

Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French painter and printmaker whose late Rococo manner was distinguished by remarkable facility, exuberance, and hedonism. One of the most prolific artists active in the last decades of the Ancien Régime, Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings, of which only five are dated. Among his most popular works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism.

Emmanuel-Armand de Richelieu, duc dAiguillon French noble and politician

Emmanuel-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis-Richelieu, duc d'Aiguillon, was a French soldier and statesman, and a nephew of Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, 3rd Duke of Richelieu. He served as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under King Louis XV.

René Nicolas Charles Augustin de Maupeou French politician

René Nicolas Charles Augustin de Maupeou was a French lawyer, politician, and chancellor of France, whose attempts at reform signalled the failure of enlightened despotism in France. He is best known for his effort to destroy the system of parlements, which were powerful regional courts, in 1770–74. When King Louis XV died in 1774, the parlements were restored and Maupeou lost power.

Pierre Max Rosenberg is a French art historian, curator, and professor. Rosenberg is the honorary president a director of the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and since 1995, he has held the 23rd seat of the Académie française. He was Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Cambridge in 1987.

Pierre-Jean Mariette French art historian

Pierre-Jean Mariette was a collector of and dealer in old master prints, a renowned connoisseur, especially of prints and drawings, and a chronicler of the careers of French Italian and Flemish artists. He was born and died in Paris, and was a central figure in the artistic culture of the city for decades.

César Gabriel de Choiseul French politician

César Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin was a French officer, diplomat and statesman.

François Lemoyne French painter

François Lemoyne or François Le Moine was a French rococo painter. He was a winner of the Prix de Rome, professor of the Académie de peinture et de sculpture, and Premier peintre du Roi to Louis XV. He was tutor to Charles-Joseph Natoire and François Boucher.

<i>Le Bénédicité</i> painting by Jean Siméon Chardin, housed at the Louvre

Le Bénédicité (Grace) is a painting by the French artist Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. Chardin made several versions of the painting, one of which was given as a gift to Louis XV. The subject of the painting is one of bourgeois, everyday tranquillity – Chardin's field of expertise, with an uncharacteristic touch of sentimentality.

Louis La Caze French physician and art collector

Dr. Louis La Caze was a successful French physician and collector of paintings whose bequest of 583 paintings to the Musée du Louvre was one of the largest the museum has ever received. Among the paintings, the most famous are likely to be Pierrot ("Gilles") by Antoine Watteau, or Rembrandt's Bathsheba at Her Bath.

Musée Cognacq-Jay Art museum in Paris, France

The Musée Cognacq-Jay is a museum located in the Hôtel Donon in the 3rd arrondissement at 8 rue Elzévir, Paris, France. It is open daily except Monday; admission is free. The nearest Metro stations are Saint-Paul and Chemin Vert.

Pierre Étienne Bourgeois de Boynes, Marquis de Boynes, Count Gueudreville, Marquis de Sains, Baron Laas was a French magistrate, statesman, and Secretary of the Navy of Louis XV.

Louis-Jacques Cathelin French engraver

Louis-Jacques Cathelin (1738–1804) was a French engraver.

Maupeou Triumvirate

The Maupeou Triumvirate was the powerful trio of ministers that ruled Ancien Regime France from 1771 to 1774. They came to power in 1771 following a coup orchestrated by René Nicolas Charles Augustin de Maupeou. Maupeou became Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the Seals, Joseph Marie Terray became Controller-General of Finances, and the Duc d'Aiguillon became foreign minister. The Triumvirate was strongly disliked by the general public, in part because of Maupeou's dismissal of both the Paris and provincial parlements, which he replaced with restructured and weakened bodies. By 1774, the year of Louis XV's death, factional infighting had divided the three ministers and weakened their collective power. Despite some successes, most notably Terray's relative stabilization of France's abysmal finances, the Triumvirate marked the failure of enlightened despotism in the Old Regime. The Triumvirate was overturned in 1774 with the king's death and the ascension of Maurepas.

Pierre Louis Dumesnil French artist

Pierre-Louis Dumesnil (1698–1781) was a French painter who specialized in genre scenes.

<i>The Stolen Kiss</i> (Fragonard) Painting by Fragonnard

The Stolen Kiss is a painting by French painter Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) from the end of the 1780s, depicting a secretive romance. The painting is hosted in the collection of the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg. The style of the painting was characteristic of the French Rococo period and was favoured by the wealthy art patrons of his time.

François Rozier French botanist

Jean-Baptiste François Rozier was a French botanist and agronomist.


  1. Charles du Rozier, in Dictionnaire de la conversation et de la lecture inventaire, s.v. "Terray (Joseph-Marie)".
  2. Choiseul, Mèmoires: "Intrigue de l'abbé Terray, de Madame du Barry et du duc d'Aiguillon pour me renvoyer du ministère".
  3. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, The Ancien Régime: a history of France, 1610-1774 1998:144.
  4. Clark, Henry (2004), "Grain Trade Information: Economic Conflict and Political Culture under Terray, 1770–1774", The Journal of Modern History, 76 (4): 793–834, doi:10.1086/427569 .
  5. Napoleon Bonaparte, "Notes diverses tirées des mémoires de l'abbé Terray," Napoleon: Manuscrits inédits, 1786-1791 publiés d’après les originaux autographes par Frédéric Masson et Guido Biagi (Paris: Société d’Éditions Littéraires et Artistiques, 1910), 236-238.
  6. Colin B. Bailey, Patriotic taste: collecting modern art in pre-revolutionary Paris, 2002:267
  7. Henri Gourdon de Genouillac, Paris à Travers les Siècles, vol. 3:357; Jetta Sophia Wolff , Historic Paris, 1921:315.
  8. Noted in Commission du vieux Paris. Procès-verbaux 1905:307
  9. Interior of a Customs-House, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, was included in the exhibition The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: masterpieces of French genre, National Gallery of Canada, 2003, cat. no 96.
  10. Included in the exhibition The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: masterpieces of French genre, National Gallery of Canada, 2003, cat. nos. 89, 90.
  11. Philip Conisbee, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1714-1789 (exhibition catalogue, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London) 1976; "the choice of subject... emanating surely from Terray's office and not from a proposal by the artist - is clearly a didactic one, extolling the virtues of trade and agriculture, and the royal system of customs and excise" (Philip Conisbee, in The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: masterpieces of French genre, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Canada 2003, s.v. cat. no. 96).
  12. Conisbee 2005; for Terray's reputation as a corrupt speculator, see Rozier, in Dictionnaire.
  13. It has been identified with a sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (John Goldsmith Phillips).
  14. It was lent to the Exposition de l'art français, 1888 (no. 213), by the comtesse Terray, and noted as stamped B.V.R.B. by Lady Dilke, French Furniture and Decoration in the XVIIIth Century 1901:161 and note.
  15. Michael Levey, Painting and Sculpture in France 1700-1789 1995:151
  16. Catalogue d'une belle collection... provenant de la succession du feu M. L'Abbé Terray, F.-C. Joullain fils Paris 1778 (the sale took place 20 January 1779); noted in Ulrich Middeldorf, Sculptures from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1976:106.
Political offices
Preceded by
Étienne Maynon d'Invault
Controllers-General of Finances
22 December 1769 – 24 August 1774
Succeeded by
Anne Robert Jacques Turgot
Preceded by
César Gabriel de Choiseul
Secretaries of State for the Navy
24 December 1770 – 9 April 1771
Succeeded by
Pierre Étienne Bourgeois de Boynes