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Il est toujours dans les bois.

(He is still [or always] in the woods)

Attributed to:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Attributed to Style A
Date:
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.20
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

An oddly attired man stands at the centre of the page, facing forward, with his head turned to the left. His face is powdered white and his nose, which is disproportionately large, coloured black. He has a thin moustache that curls upwards. His right elbow juts out to the side and his hand, which is curled under, rests on his hip. He carries a woven basket over his right arm and holds a long wooden staff in his left.

The man is dressed in a green long-sleeved coat with a white lace collar. A red stripe sandwiched between two yellow stripes runs down the centre of the coat. It is decorated with bands of red and yellow at his shoulders and has red cuffs, and flares out at the waist. The coat has a knee-length skirt decorated with alternating vertical stripes of red and green separated by thin yellow stripes. A yellow band runs along the skirt’s hem. The man wears ankle-length green pantaloons with red and white striped details at the knee, red stockings and wooden clogs. He has a broad-brimmed hat, which is turned up slightly at the front and decorated with bushy red and yellow plumes that unfurl to the left.

Curatorial Commentary

The black nose of the figure recalls the black, nose-encompassing mask worn by Doctor Balouarde, a stock character from the commedia dell’arte, and this part of the “Livre de Caricatures” does contain a number of images evoking that tradition (e.g. 675.16, 675.17). However, the Doctor is normally dressed entirely in black.

Intriguingly, Dacier records an incident, depicted in a drawing by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin’s brother, Gabriel, in which their younger brother Augustin had blackened the nose of another of their brothers – presumably Charles-Germain himself - while he slept. The incident occurred in June 1750, when Augustin was 14 years old, and Gabriel 26. The drawing was dedicated by the ‘three rascals' (“les trois espiègles") to their father, Gabriel-Germain. (Dacier, ii, no 227, p. 197; Scott, 2012). However, this incident might well be completely unrelated to this drawing.

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
Inscriptions:
Il est toujours dans les bois.
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

20
Pagination
Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
He is still [or always] in the woods
Language:
French

History

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

Bibliography

Bibliography:

Katie Scott; Saint-Aubin's jokes and their relation to...; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 349-403; p. 393n

Related literature

Émile Dacier; Gabriel de Saint-Aubin; 2; Paris; Editions G. vna Oest; 1929
Pierre Duchartre; La Comédie italienne: l'improvisation, les canevas, vies, caractères, portraits, masques des illustres personnages de la commedia dell'arte; Paris; Libraire de France; 1924. pp. 199-210
Allardyce Nicoll; The World of Harlequin: A Critical Study of the Commedia dell'Arte; Cambridge; Cambridge University Press; 1986. pp. 55-60

Indexed terms