loading

Il n'y a qu'un danceur, qui puisse Sentir toutte la finesse de cette allegorie.

(Only one [or a] dancer can perceive all the finesse of this allegory.)

Attributed to:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Date:
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.29
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A fancifully dressed man stands on a round platform. His body faces forward, and his head is turned towards the lower left. A garland of leaves, drawn in brown ink, is threaded through holes in the near-side of the platform, creating a series of swags that hang down beneath it. The underside of the platform, also in ink, is fluted. It tapers quickly away towards a thin strut that supports the platform.

A gourd-shaped bagpipe-like instrument is strapped to the man’s body by a yellow cord over his right shoulder. It crosses his body diagonally. The instrument is blue with gold detailing. Its mouthpiece is mounted on a long blowpipe that points towards the upper right corner, before curving back on itself. A melody pipe emerges from the right of the instrument. It is held – or played – with the man’s left hand. His right hand touches the button on the base of the instrument.

The man is dressed in a red jacket with a blue scalloped collar. Yellow scallop-edged trimmings run down the centre of the jacket, and a blue band encircles his elbow. The jacket, which flares out at the waist, has a green skirt, with a lobed hem, trimmed in a band of red and white. Small white disks hang from each series of lobes. Beneath the skirt he wears blue breeches tied at the knee with yellow ribbons, and strange pink and yellow stocking-shoes, also decorated by ribbons. A long purple cloak hangs down behind him and he wears a hat, also coloured purple. It has a tall thin crown which curves slightly towards the left. A red flower and feathers decorate the front of the hat’s brim, which is trimmed in yellow.

Curatorial Commentary

The caption is impenetrable. As with the equally obscure drawing and caption on the facing page (675.28), there is a reference to theatre, while each figure sports a bizarrely-imagined wind-instrument. Fantastical musical instruments, especially wind instruments, are frequently represented in the “Livre de Caricatures” (e.g. 675.23, 675.28, 675.66, 675.67, 675.69). As with the preceeding page, this drawing appears to have been supplemented over a period of time, and it is probable that the platform was drawn some time after the main figure was originally executed.

The caption highlights Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin's keen sense of the ridiculous in theatrical and musical life (eg.675.29, 675.380) (Ledbury, 2012).

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 n'y a qu'un danceur, qui puisse Sentir toutte la finesse / de cette allegorie. ils ont tous, tant d'Esprit!
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

5
Inscription
Bottom right, in faded graphite

29
Pagination
Top right corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
Only one [or a] dancer can perceive all the finesse of this allegory. They are all so witty!
Underdrawing:
Left of figure, in graphite; illegible
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:

Mark Ledbury; Theatrical Life; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 193-214; p. 208, fig. 8.15
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. 375

Indexed terms