patron [Lat.,=like a father], one who lends influential support to some person, cause, art or institution. Patronage existed in various ancient cultures but was primarily a Roman institution. In Roman law the lord was patronus (protector or defender) in relation to his freedmen and to others, known as his clients, whom he represented in the senate and before tribunals. Under the Roman Empire the term was applied to persons like Maecenas who supported artists and writers. Perhaps the most munificent patronage occurred in Italy during the Renaissance under patrons such as the Medici, the Sforza, and many popes. Francis I of France and his sister Margaret of Navarre were distinguished patrons of art and letters; a famous English patron was Lord Chesterfield. Since ancient times Christians have honored patron saints as tutelary guardians of persons, institutions, places, and crafts. Historically, artists have depended on institutional (e.g., government and church) as well as individual patronage; Picasso's Guernica and Chagall's stained glass windows are examples of commissioned works. Universities and private foundations have also become important sources of patronage for artists.

Patron-Minette was the name given to the Thénardiers' street gang in Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables and the musical of the same name. They acted as secondary villains and were referred to, in the book, as 'Devils of Crime'. The gang, excluding Monsieur Thénardier and his wife, consisted of Montparnasse, Claquesous, Babet, and Gueulemer.

Montparnasse was, in the words of Hugo, "scarcely more than a child, a youth of under twenty with a pretty face, cherry-lips, glossy dark hair and the brightness of Springtime in his eyes. ... The gamin turned vagabond and the vagabond become an assassin ... A fashion plate living in squalor and committing murder."

Claquesous, as described by the author, was a creature of the night, and a vague underworld dweller at best, a ventriloquist, more often masked than not and shrouded in a thick cloud of mystery.

Babet was a jack of all trades, a performer, a dentist, tall and thin with "daylight ... visible through his bones." He had a family (a wife and children) at one point, but lost them "as one loses a pocket handkerchief."

Gueulemer is described as the most physically imposing of the gang members, "a Hercules ... come down in the world." However, he was known to have very little brain.

The Gang in the Musical

Interestingly, the character of Gueulemer is replaced by Brujon, who appears in the novel but not as one of the Patron-Minette quartet. The gang first appears in Look Down/The Robbery/Javert's Intervention at which point they are introduced to the audience by Thénardier ("Everyone here?/You know your place./ Brujon, Babet, Claquesous!/ You, Montparnasse / Watch for the law with Éponine..."). Montparnasse also appears in a brief scene with Éponine at the beginning of "The Attack on Rue Plumet" That scene is often been cut from recordings. The gang attempts to rob Jean Valjean's house until Éponine, afraid that Marius will think her a criminal, screams to send them away.

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