François Dufaut
1604 - 1672

The name Dufaut is usually mentioned together with other lutenists of his time – the Gaultiers, the Gallots and Charles Mouton – when the French lute school and its founding father Ennemond Gaultier ('the elder') are discussed. Evrard Titon du Tillet, for example, in his Parnasse françois (1732), gives a laudatory retrospect on the France of Louis XIV, in which he counts Dufaut alongside Gallot and Mouton as pupils of Gaultier. What is more, in the sources of Dufaut's music – two printed anthologies (1631/1638) and more than 90 manuscripts, mostly of French, English and German origins – his compositions are found together with the works of other lutenists.

Today, many biographical details concerning Dufaut remain obscure. He was born into a middle class family in Bourges in 1604 or a little earlier. At the time of his marriage he lived in Paris, on the Quai des Augustins in the parish of Saint-André-des-Arts, very near the Pont Saint-Michel and the atelier of the lute and viola da gamba maker Edmond Hotman. In 1631, Pierre Ballard, a music publisher by royal privilege, issued a collection of lute music that includes several pieces by Dufaut together with works by lutenists belonging to the court entourage. This confirms that Dufaut had made his way into the circle of the leading lutenists of his time, even if he apparently never held a court position himself.

Around 1650 Dufaut travelled to England, surprisingly enough at a time when French musicians employed at the court of Charles I left London to return to Paris after the king's execution in 1649 and the establishment of the Commonwealth. In 1653 we find Dufaut in the circle of the court at Innsbruck, and in 1655 he was apparently in Paris once more, for during his stay the Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens sent his father Constantijn in The Hague a list of recommended Parisian musicians: Chambonnière, Lambert, Hotteman, Constantin, Du Faut, Gaultier, Pinel and Gobert. In 1662 Constantijn Huygens, the music loving scholar, diplomat, poet and indeed composer, met in Paris with Dufaut, who was about to depart once more for England (where the monarchy had been restored), entrusting him with several letters addressed to Londoners. A year later, in 1663, Christiaan Huygens heard Dufaut play in London, and he described his performance as “excelent goed”. In 1669, in a letter to a Mrs Warwick, probably a London pupil of Dufaut, Constantijn Huygens enquired as to whether the illustrious Mr Dufaut was still alive. We do not know what Mrs Warwick replied, and the date of Dufaut's decease is a matter of conjecture. Two musical homages have survived, a Tombeau de Dufaux by Dupré d’Angleterre, and Le Sommeil de Dufaut, the opening piece in Jacques Gallot's printed lute book, which was published in 1682.