on ne guerit pas de la peur

(There is no cure for fear)

Attributed to:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Attributed to Style A
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
One of a set, see others


Brief Description:

A man with a basket on his back stands at the centre of the page, his body angled obliquely towards the right. He is posed with both legs bent at the knees and his hands, which are bent back at the wrist, held out before him, palms open.

The man is dressed in a green jacket with a white collar, brown breeches, red stockings and brown shoes. He wears a broad-brimmed soft hat, pushed back on his head. A white apron is tied about his waist and a knife tucked in its strings. A pair of purple bellows, a closed parasol and another unidentifiable object are visible in the basket on his back.

A dog stands behind the man, facing in the same direction. Its fur is white with brown patches. The dog narrows its eyes and, mouth open, bares its teeth at the bizarrely dressed figure on the opposite page. The man, who looks similarly alarmed, is depicted with his mouth wide open, as if in shock or fear.

Curatorial Commentary

Man and dog seem to be frightened by the figure on the opposite page (675.19), and the caption may refer to that figure. The expression of the man (and indeed the dog) closely recalls the profile drawing of ‘Fear’ (“La Frayeur”), from Charles Le Brun’s “Conférence sur l’expression générale et particulière” (1668). “La Frayeur” is among the illustrations in the late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century published editions of the “Conférence” by, for example, Sébastian Le Clerc (1696) and Bernard Picart (1698). Such editions allowed Le Brun’s images to be widely diffused among artists and actors throughout the century (Montagu, 1994).

This drawing is in Style A, attributed to the principal author of the “Livre de Caricatures”, Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin. Style A displays a childish and naïve aesthetic and sometimes subject matter, and is characterised by crispness of execution, clear outlines and smooth application of colour. It is dominant in the early part of the book, from 675.3 to around 675.160. The opening inscription (675.1a) claims that the book was acquired from booksellers on the Paris quays in 1740 already containing drawings in another hand. The inscription states that ‘my friends put captions [underneath the drawings] and got me to continue this miscellany of follies’ (“mes amis y mirent des légendes et m’engagerent à continuer ce melange de folies”). This may be a tall story, explicable by Charles-Germain’s reluctance to admit authorship of the work. Charles-Germain was a versatile artist, and the possibility that he was responsible for the entire process in these initial drawings cannot be ruled out. In the drawings in the book not in Style A, Charles-Germain first made graphite sketches in much the same way. However it is possible that in the sections of the book dominated by Style A, Charles-Germain confined himself to working up existing graphite drawings, as well as adding details and also, with his friends’ assistance as he describes, the captions.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
on ne guerit pas de la peur
Inscribed in an unknown hand, below image, in ink

Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
There is no cure for fear
Above parasol, in graphite; the parasol was once positioned slightly higher on the page


Part of:
Livre de Caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises. 675.1-389
Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957


Related literature

Charles Le Brun; Conférence de M. Le Brun,...sur l'expression générale et particulière; Paris; 1698
Robert Massin; Les cris de la ville: Commerces ambulants et petits métiers de la rue; Paris; Éditions Gallimard; 1985
Jennifer Montagu; The Expression of the Passions: the Origin and Influence of Charles Le Brun's "Conférence sur l'expression générale et particulière"; New Haven; Yale University Press; 1994
Vincent Milliot, Le travail sans le geste. Les représentations iconographiques des petits métiers parisiens (XVI-XVIIIe s.), Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, xli, January 1994, 5-28
Vincent Milliot; Les Cris de Paris: les représentations des petits métiers parisiens (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles); Paris; Publications de la Sorbonne; 1995

Indexed terms