Devinés Qui?

(Guess who?)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Additional handwriting by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu (b.c 1784, d.1869)
c 1754?
1822-1860 {One inscription by Tardieu)}
Drawing may evoke Rameau's 1754 "Platée" revival
Place of Production:
Paris, France
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
One of a set, see others


Brief Description:

A figure dressed in an outfit composed of sheets of music faces forwards. He has a gaunt, ashen complexion and is open mouthed. On his head is a lectern, lit by two candles on the left side. His arms are open wide and in each hand he holds a rolled up score. The man is posed balletically: he stands on one pointed toe and stretches his left leg out behind him. Red and yellow flames rise from beneath his right foot and from his left knee and side. The ground beneath him is covered with debris that resembles charred paper.

Curatorial Commentary

In response to the question 'Guess who?', posed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, Pierre-Antoine Tardieu (husband of the artist's grand-daughter, Eugène-Isabelle de Bonnaire, who inherited the “Livre de Caricatures” in the 1820s), suggests that the allusion is to the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. The gaunt features of the figure depicted here are also caricatured in 675.240.

The image pastiches well-known series of engravings depicting merchants, street traders and itinerent workers dressed in clothing constructed from the tools of their trade in the manner of Arcimboldo (c. 1527-93). The “Costumes grotesques et les metiers” by Nicolas Larmessin II (1638-94), for example, was composed of 77 engravings, including a “Habit de musicien” (Weigert, 1969). The series, « Recueil des modes de la cour de France", also contained a « Habit de musicien » by Jacques Le Pautre after Jean Berain. The pose of the figure on 675.56 recalls Berain’s design (Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, inv. M.2002.57.135).

It is possible that the drawing also makes a more specific allusion to Rameau's “Platée”, first performed at Versailles on 31 March 1745). Revived in Paris in 1754, it contributed to the “Guerre des Bouffons”, the public polemic opposing supporters of traditional French opera to Italian forms. Charles-Germain makes a number of references to this dispute in the “Livre de Caricatures”. Rameau appears to be stepping dangerously into the flames of controversy.

Apart from the first three images in the « Livre de Caricatures », this is the first drawing not to be in Style A, the cruder drawings attributed to Charles-Germain which dominate down to around 675.160. It is one of a small cluster of such drawings (675.56-675.59) – the next are at 675.72 and 675.73.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Devinés qui?
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

Inscribed by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, below image, in ink

Top left, in ink
Translation of inscription
Guess who?
Underdrawing, about figure, in graphite; the figure's costume has undergone various alterations and, in place of a rolled up score, it held a pennant in its left hand.


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, Presidential Address. French Crossings. II. Laughing over Boundaries, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 21, December 2011, 1-38; p. 14
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. 216, fig. 9.1
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. 43
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. 361n, 372n

Related literature

Adrien-Joseph de Valois d'Orville, Jean-Philippe Rameau; Platée: ballet bouffon en 3 actes, précédé d'un prologue, représenté devant le Roi en son château de Versailles le... 31 mars 1745; Paris; Ballard; 1745
Roger-Armand Weigert, Sur les Larmessin et les costumes grotesque, Nouvelles de l'estampe, 2, 1969, 67-75
Nicolas Anderson, Rameau's "Platée": Burlesque or Grotesque?, Early Music, xi, October 1983, 505-8

Indexed terms