(Pierre) Joseph Ravel   (19.ix.1832 - 13.x.1908)

Ravel's father was born in 1832, one of five children, in Versoix in Switzerland. (It was this part of Maurice's origin that gave half the point to Stravinsky's remark about him being the "most perfect Swiss watchmaker".) Joseph Ravel became a civil engineer, moved to France in the late 1850s, and worked occasionally in Spain on railway engineering projects. It was in Spain that he met Marie Delouart (though her home was in Ciboure in the Basque region of France), and they were married in Paris on 3 April 1873.

Portrait of Joseph Ravel by Marcellin Desboutin Joseph was involved in the early development of the automobile industry and after some mixed fortunes with experimental forms of internal combustion engine, he settled into a motor manufacturing business, which led him in due course to settle in the industrial Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret. Later he invented a circus act involving a somersaulting car, which appeared at the Casino de Paris, and at Barnum & Bailey's circus in 1903 when he took it to America with his son Edouard. (There, apparently, an unfortunate accident in the performance occurred, resulting in the death of the driver.)

According to Ravel (in his "Esquisse autobiographique"), Joseph Ravel had some interest and skill in music: "beaucoup plus instruit dans cet art que ne le sont la plupart des amateurs".

The portrait by Marcellin Desboutin, painted in 1892, and now to be seen at Ravel's house Le Belvédère, shows an imposingly bearded face with grave features.

The website of the Association Patrimoine Versoisien includes a detailed account of the career of Joseph Ravel, including some illustrations of his inventions.

Some detailed information about the family of Ravel's father is given in an article by Amy Chatelain, "La famille de Maurice Ravel et ses origines", in Schweiz Musikzeitung / Revue Musical Suisse, 85.Jahrgang, nr.4 (April 1945) pp.113-116.

www.maurice-ravel.net