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Sy tu veux savoir la vraye histoire de ces figures, arme toy de patience et vas denumeros en numeros tant qu'il me plaira

(If you wish to know the true story of these figures, arm yourself with patience and go from number to number for as long as I please)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Additional handwriting by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu (b.c 1784, d.1869)
Date:
c 1775 {Drawing composed as book was completed}
1822-1869 {One caption by Tardieu}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.2
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A stone obelisk with two sunken panels on its nearside rises up at the centre of the page. The phrase "il eut/ pourtent/ une/ Reputation" is inscribed in the top-most panel. Its tapering form is truncated by the upper edge of the page. A large metal ring juts out from the lower of its two panels. Hanging from the ring is a short chain composed of two large metal loops.

Around the base of the obelisk is an array of objects and foliage. At the centre, facing forward, is a heraldic shield. A red bar emblazoned with a clyster syringe runs across its top. Beneath the bar, the shield is white and is decorated with a blue spotted band (a bend sinister) that cuts diagonally across its upper left corner. Aligned with the band's diagonal are three hieroglyphs. The shield is flanked by two clogs, placed on the ground and each pointing outwards. Immediately to the right of the shield is an open portfolio. A string of small golden bells hangs over its right cover. On the ground beneath the portfolio is a small sickle, and peeping out from behind its right side is the head of a marotte. A second marotte, wearing the jester’s traditional headgear and bells rises clear of the foliage running behind the portfolio. Above it and emerging from behind the obelisk is a pennant, drawn in brown ink, bearing a profile portrait in a roundel at its centre and the inscription 'Fete de la / mere Folle'. The flag pole is capped by a miniature marotte with bells hanging from its lilipres, while another bell hangs from the flag itself. There is a second smaller pennant to the right of the chain. On the far right of the composition is a roughly-sketched toy windmill on a stick.

Leaning at an angle against the left edge of the central heraldic shield is an unidentified oval object with a gold rim - possibly a tambour. Another crudely drawn marotte face emerges from behind it while beneath it on the ground is a large sickle. To the far left of the composition the end of a fasces is visible and, behind it a basket with a woven back-board. A garland of leaves, possibly laurel, rest on the ground at either side of the composition.

Curatorial Commentary

The parodic heraldic shield is identified in an inscription, written towards the bottom of the page by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu in the early nineteenth century, as belonging to Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, the principal author of the “Livre de Caricatures”, highlighting the drawing’s personal significance. In this context, the clogs, farming tools and basket of produce may refer to his family’s rural ancestry, about which he wrote in the “Recueil des Plantes” (Oak Spring Garden Library, VA, see http://www.oakspring.org/saintaubin.html, image 4). The open portfolio and tambour frame evoke Charles-Germain’s professional status as an embroidery designer to the French king (“brodeur du roi”). The carnivalesque paraphernalia - marottes, bells, whirligigs, flags (one of which makes reference to the historic festive society of the “Mère Folle”) – indicate the tone of the book which follows. So too, on a scatological register, does the emblazoned enema syringe.

This page and the frontispiece on its recto side were almost certainly late additions to the “Livre de Caricatures”, possibly dating from 1775 when Charles-Germain was completing the book. (There is a faint underdrawing of a shepherdess which highlights the adaptation.) The word “caricature” in French was rare before the 1750s, only making its first appearance in the fourth, 1762 edition of the “Dictionnaire de l’Académie français”. The inclusion of a monument to the author in the form of an obelisk, reinforces a sense of completion and may – like the monument’s inscription ('And yet he had a reputation') - hint at mock heroic intimations of the ageing artist's own mortality as much as at his place in posterity. It echoes the central obelisk on the title page of Charles-Germain’s 1748 series of engravings, the “Essay de papillonneries humaines”, which were etched by Etienne Fessard (London, British Museum, inv. 1983, 1105.2) (Reproduced in “Regency to Empire”, 1985, p.123; Mauriès, 1996). As Katie Scott points out, it also ironically evokes the frontispiece of Antoine-Joseph Dézallier d’Argenville’s “Abrégé de la vie des plus fameux peintres” (1745). (Scott, 2012)

The inscription marks the beginning of a long string of cross-references: 675.2, 81, 133, 3, 274, 42, 193. The logic behind the chain of links is unclear. The caption on the last of the seven drawings, on page 675.193 - 'It is a misuse of wit to put it everywhere' (‘C'est abuser de l'Esprit que d'en mettre partout’) - may acknowledge the wild-goose chase through the book on which the reader has been sent. The caption may refer to d’Alembert’s remark ‘abusing the philosophical spirit is tantamount to lacking it’ (‘abuser de l’esprit philosophique, c’est d’en manquer’), in his “Réflexions sur le goût” (‘Reflections on taste’) which he appended to the entry on “Goût” in volume vii of the “Encyclopédie” (“Encyclopédie”, 1757, vii, p.769). The remark functions as an ironic comment on the practice of cross-referencing in the “Encyclopédie” and the “Livre de Caricatures” (cf. Darnton, 1979, p.8). In both cases, the entries thus brought into association often require the reader to make creative associations between the linked pages, reading between the lines in order to extract hidden meanings.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
il / eut pourtant / une / Réputation!
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, on obelisk, in ink

Fete de la / mere Folle
Inscription
Inscribed, probably by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, on flag, in ink

Sy tu veux Savoir la vraye histoire de ces figures, arme / toy de patience et vas denumeros en numeros tant qu'il / me plaira, à commencer par la page 81.
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink.

Armoiries grotesques de l'auteur.
Inscription
Inscribed by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, bottom, in ink

2
Pagination
Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
And yet, he had a reputation!
Festival of the Mère folle
If you wish to know the true story of these figures, arm yourself with patience and go from number to number for as long as I please, starting at page 81.
Grotesque coat of arms of the author
Underdrawing:
Centre of page, in graphite; the figure of a woman holding a shepherd's crook is visible.
Language:
French
Invented language

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:

James H. Johnson; Musical culture; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 215-232; p. 221
Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson; Appendix; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 405-13
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; pp. 36, 46, 50n, 51n
Valerie Mainz; Gloire, subversively; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 151-177; pp. 158-9, fig. 6.5
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; pp. 349n, 355, 359-61, 372n, 384, fig. 16.2b

Related literature

Jean-Bénigne Lucotte, seigneur du Tilliot; Mémoire pour servir l'histoire de la fête des foux qui se fait autrefois dans plusieurs églises; Lausanne, Geneva; [n. pub.]; 1751
Denis Diderot, Jean d' Alembert; Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences des Arts et des Metiers, xxxv vols [Paris: 1751-80]; Paris; Pergamon Press; 1969
Robert Darnton; The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopedie, 1775-1800; Cambridge, London; 1979
Maurice Lever; Le Sceptre et la marotte. Histoire des fous de cour; Paris; Fayard; 1983. pp. 82-96
Victor Carlson, John Ittmann; Regency to Empire: French Printmaking 1715-1814; The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, 10 November 1984 - 6 January 1985; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 6 February 1985 - 31 March 1985; The Minneapolis Institute of Fine Arts, Minneapolis, 27 April 1985 - 23 June 1985; Minneapolis; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; 1984
Laurinda S. Dixon, Some Penetrating Insights: The Imagery of Enemas in Art, Art Journal, lii, Fall 1993, 28-35
Patrick Mauriès; Sur les papillonneries humaines; Paris; Éditions Gallimard; 1996
Sara Beam; Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France; Ithaca; Cornell University Press; 2007. pp. 188-196
Michael Zimmer, Renvois of the past, present and future: hyperlinks and the structuring of knowledge from the Encyclopédie to web 2.0, New Media and Society, February 2009, 95-113

http://www.oakspring.org/saintaubin.html Leaf 4

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