Epitaphe de Mis Sechala morte a 21 ans

(Epitaph of Miss Sechala, dead at 21)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
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 herm in the form of a young female figure is depicted at the centre of the page. Far from seeming hard or sculptural, she seems animated and is dressed in garments which appear soft and malleable. She wears a light blue square-necked corseted dress with full sleeves, and red trimmings running down the centre of her bodice. A necklace or frill tightly encircles her neck.

A faint blush is visible on her cheeks. Her eyes are closed and a slight smile plays across her face. Her hands are joined behind her back. Large round disks are attached to each side of her head, which is tilted to the right. A butterfly with long antennae stands on top of her head. Its two legs are bent.

A garland of blue and red flowers is wound around the stem of the herm, which is flanked by two large antlers. To the right is a toy windmill on a stick, to the left a pennant. At the base of the herm, resting on the ground are two bulbous objects, most likely bladders. Two loose coins, one marked with a cross, the other with faint suggestions of a face in profile are alongside them. This assortment of objects is painted in monochrome.

Curatorial Commentary

It is not known which young woman is being commemorated in this drawing. The antlers, pig-bladders, flags and whirligigs signify folly, and the butterfly is an image particularly associated with Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin through his “papillonneries” (Mauriès, 1996) – but it also symbolises the ephemerality of a life cut short.

The herm-like figure has been adapted from an underdrawing depicting a woman in a dress with full skirts, which can be faintly seen billowing out from Miss Sechala’s waist. The underdrawn woman’s staff, held in her outstretched right hand, also forms the stem of the pennant that rises to the left of the page.

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

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Epitaphe de Mis Sechala morte a 21 ans
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink.

Top right, in ink
Translation of inscription
Epitaph of Miss Sechala, dead at 21
Around figure, in graphite; the figure once wore a dress with full skirts. She held a long staff in her outstretched right 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, 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. 44
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. 372n

Related literature

Patrick Mauriès; Sur les papillonneries humaines; Paris; Éditions Gallimard; 1996

Indexed terms