Il ne faut rien perdre

(One must waste nothing)

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 rides backwards on an ass that walks towards the left. The ass brays, opening its mouth to reveal its teeth. Its reins hang slack and its back is partially covered by a white cloth attached by a strap that runs beneath its belly. The ass's tail is flicked upwards and the animal is defecating. The falling excrement is caught on a round paddle held by a second man who is depicted in left profile and positioned to the right of the ass. The second man is posed in a semi-crouched position, with both legs bent at the knees. He wears a long ochre-coloured coat, black breeches and grey stockings. The crown of his ochre hat is torn in two places.

The man riding on the back of the ass turns his upper body towards the front, and his head to the left. Both his arms are raised. In his right hand he holds the neck of a round-bodied flask, and in his left the stem of a full wine glass. He is dressed in a mustard coloured coat, which flares out at the waist and a scallop-edged band. The coat is partially unbuttoned, revealing a white shirt beneath. He wears red breeches, which are slashed at the knee, mustard coloured stockings and black shoes. He wears a black hat with an upturned brim and a tall thin crown. Red and yellow plumes unfurl to the left of the crown.

Curatorial Commentary

Both the mounted figure and his steed appear to be in dialogue with their counterparts on the facing page (675.36). This image evokes New Year’s Day, while that on the opposite page references another festive occasion, the wine-harvest. The figure here faces backwards on his mount, in line with carnivalesque traditions, which are also evoked in the scatological reference.

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.

A worn fragment of printed text (reading “DISCOURS”) is visible to the left of the man's hat. The same text appears in slightly fuller form on 675.88, where the words “UNE ETR[ENNE]” (‘a New Year’s Day gift’) are also legible. Although very faint, the text appears to have been noticed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, for on both 675.37 and 675.88, they take their cue from it with drawings and inscriptions that allude to carnivalesque traditions. (Similar fragments are also visible at 675.69, 675.101 and 675.203.) These words appear accidentally, as a result of the careless handling of the sheets of blank paper used to make up the “Livre de Caricatures”: the pressman allowed them to come into contact with (or to ‘kiss’) still standing type that had not been washed down and was still bearing ink (Mark Bland, private communication).

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Il ne faut rien perdre
Inscribed, possibly by Charles-Germain, below image, in ink

le premier / jour de l'an.
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

Top right corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
One must waste nothing
on the first day of the year


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



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. 40-1, 50n, 51n
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. 386n

Related literature

Mark Bland; A guide to early printed books and manuscripts; Chichester; Wiley-Blackwell; 2010

Indexed terms