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Livre de Caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises

(Book of caricatures both good and bad)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Augustin de (b.1736, d.1807)
Possibly:
Saint-Aubin, Gabriel-Jacques de (b.1724, d.1780)
Possibly:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Date:
c 1740-c 1775
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Accession number:
675

Commentary

"The Livre de caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises" (The Book of Caricatures good and bad) is a unique survival from an age of powerful censorship. If it were to have been discovered by the authorities, it would have been destroyed and its authors at the very least imprisoned in the Bastille

Most of the nearly 400 drawings in the book are by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin (1721-1786). As Dessinateur du Roi pour la broderie et la dentelle (Designer of embroidery and lace to the King’s wardrobeH), he depended upon the king and the court for his livelihood and status. He published designs for embroidery and other ornament as well as the widely "L’Art du brodeur" (Art of the Embroiderer). "The Book of caricatures reveals a different, secret side of the artist’s identit". It bears witness to his playful but dangerous scrutiny of the court, the city and his times.

Saint-Aubin claimed that when he acquired the volume it was already partly filled with drawings and that his friends urged him to add to the ‘mélange de folies’ (‘medley of madness’). This may be true. It may be a fabrication to tease the viewer. Saint-Aubin created the book with his family and friends over a period of nearly 40 years, from the 1740s to 1770s. His artist brothers Augustin and Gabriel were among the contributors that have been identified. Sometimes they added to an image or amended the inscription over time as a subject gained new topicality.

A digital catalogue of the entire volume is available on the Waddesdon Manor website: http://www.waddesdon.org.uk/collection/special-projects/st.-aubin

Brief Description:

An album of (mainly) comic drawings, in watercolour, ink and graphite on paper, by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin and others, with manuscript inscriptions by Charles-Germain de Saint- Aubin and others, c 1740- c.1775. A few works are pasted in. The binding (probably made early in the second half of the nineteenth century) is in green morocco, with ornate lozenge and frond border with a large central block with peacocks at top, and fruit, with a small, blank, central oval containing a side view of a female herm; the spine lettered 'ALBUM/de/St, AUBIN.', with wide band and irregular panel ornaments of three types; gilt edges, leaf roll to board edges, unusual turn-in roll with vases rectangular frets and light veined stone marble end leaves. The “Livre” contains a total of 387 illustrated pages, most with inscriptions, and two pages with inscription only, at the beginning of the book. Some pages bear later inscriptions in the hand of Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, presumably added between 1822 (when he inherited the book) and his death in 1869.

Curatorial Commentary

The brief description of the alleged origins of the “Livre de Caricatures” (see 'inscriptionhs') was almost certainly written in 1775 as Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin was bringing to a close his long-running book of comic drawings, and adding a title page to it. It presents one account version of the book’s origins. In 1740, Charles-Germain would have been twenty years old and just starting his career as embroiderer.

This tale of a purchase from a Parisian “bouquiniste” may have be a tall story, explicable by Charles-Germain’s reluctance to admit authorship of a work whose content (especially its lewd drawings of Madame de Pompadour) put him in some political danger. However, in fact the first half of the book contains many drawings in a distinctive childish and naïve style, characterised by crispness of execution, clear outlines and smooth application of colour. In this website, we refer to this early style as ‘Style A’. 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 here describes here, the captions. Style A continues in the volume well beyond 675.160, but in the form of underdrawings beneath more sophisticated drawings work that are more characteristic of Charles-Germain’s known work that is more evidently in Charles-Germain’s hand. (Jones & Richardson, 2012)

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
196 x 140
Inscriptions:
En 1740 je trouvay ce volume sur les Quais avec quelques figures dessinées sans intentions, mes amis y mirent des légendes et s'engagerent à continuer ce melange de folies qui ne sont pas assez bonnes pour etre montrées à des gens raisonables. Il y a heureusement encore des Crânes vuides.
Inscription

Sy, quand je seray mort, ce livre est mis en vente / On y verra des fruits de mon oisiveté / Mais a savoir mon nom, en vain on se tourmente / Car pour le mettre icy j’ai trop de vanité / Tu n’as pas tout vü!
Inscription
Translation of inscription
In 1740 I found this volume on the Quays with a few figures drawn without guile, my friends added captions and endeavored to continue this mixture of follies which is not good enough to show to reasonable people. Fortunately, there are still some empty heads around.
This book is Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin’s. Royal painter for embroidery, he died in March 1786. The last date noted in the book is 1775. They call it in the family by the name the book of arses.

He had four brothers, Gabriel and Louis, who were painters, Augustin, who was an engraver and Athanase, who was a player.

He had three children: Marie-Françoise, Madame Donnebecq; Catherine-Noel, Madame Parisis, and later Madame de Bonnaire; and Germain-Augustin, who was an auctioneer-appraiser.

Madame de Bonnaire had two children: Claude-Jacques-Gabriel, work in the Droits-Réunis offices, and Eugénie-Isabelle, Madame Tardieu.
Labels:
Ce livre est de Charles Germain de Saint / Aubin peintre du roy pour les broderies / il est mort en mars 1786. La derniere / date portée dans ce livre est 1775. / On le designe / dans la famille sous le nom de livre des Culs.

Il eut quatre freres Gabriel peintre, Ludovic / peintre, Augustin, graveur et Athanase / comedien.

Il eut trois enfans Marie François Madame / Donnebecq, Catherine Noel Madame Parisis et / depuis Madame Debonnaire, et germain Augustin / qui fut commissaire priseur.

Madame Debonnaire eut deux enfans Claude Jacques / gabriel employé dans les droits Reunis et Eugénie Isabelle Madame Tardieu.
Label
Inscribed by Pierre Tardieu in ink on a page found inside front leaf

History

Provenance description
Inherited by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu after 1822; acquired by Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur; his posthumous sale, 1893; at which purchased by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild; inherited by Alice de Rothschild 1898; inherited by James de Rothschild 1922; bequeathed to Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) 1957.
Part of:
Livre de Caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises. 675.1-388
Collection:
Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957

Bibliography

Bibliography:

Edmond de Goncourt, Jules de Goncourt; L’art du dix-huitième siècle; 2 vols; Paris; A Quantin; 1880-1882; vol. ii, pp. 178-82
Catalogue de dessins originaux réunis en recueils: oeuvres importantes des Saint-Aubin composant la collection de M. Hippolyte Destailleur architecte du gouvernement; Paris; 1893; lot 125
Colin Jones; Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress; London; National Gallery Company; 2002; p. 78, fig. 42; p. 121, fig. 82; p. 130, figs. 82 & 83
Juliet Carey; Theatres of Life: Drawings from the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; The Wallace Collection, London, 8 November 2007 - 27 January 2008, The Djanogly Museum and Art Gallery, Nottingham, 12 April 2008 - 1 June 2008, Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, 2009.; London; Paul Holberton Publishing, The Alice Trust; 2007; p. 18
Juliet Carey; Des chefs-d'oeuvre discrets: la collection de dessins; Les collections exceptionnelles des Rothschild: Waddesdon Manor (Hors-série de l'Estampille/l'Objet d'Art, No. 14), Dijon, Éditions Faton, 2004; 56-63
Melissa Hyde; Making up the rococo: François Boucher and his critics; Los Angeles; Getty Research Institute; 2006; p. 125
Kristel Smentek; Rococo Exotic: French Mounted Porcelains and the Allure of the East; The Frick Collection, New York, 6 March-10 June 2007; New York; The Frick Collection; 2007; p. 16
Colin Jones, Emily Richardson; Archaeology and materiality; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 31-53; p. 33

Related literature

Pierre Rosenberg; Le Livre des Saint-Aubin; Paris; Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux; 2002
Anthony Blunt, Drawings at Waddesdon Manor, Master Drawings, XI, 1973, 358-364