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Je vais enseigner en ville touttes les Sciences demontreés a la page 214

(I am going to teach in town all the sciences demonstrated on page 214)

Attributed to:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Attributed to Style A
Date:
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.8
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A long-haired boy stands on stilts. He wears a tall hat with a wide brim, pinned up at the front, and long white bands over the top of a red belted jacket. Tucked into his trousers at the front is a length of white cloth that hangs down between his legs. Around his shoulders he wears a long cloak with a broad collar. The cloak flows out behind him forming a train, which is carried by a second boy. This second child, whose face is partially hidden by a black domino mask, is dressed in a green belted tunic, a pair of red breeches, white stockings and black shoes. He wears a round-brimmed hat with a tall thin crown surmounted by a pompom.

Curatorial Commentary

This drawing cross-refers to a drawing at 675.214 with a citation from Boileau – ‘a beautiful disorder is the effect of art’ (“un beau desordre est un effet de l’art”). The link is not clear. This use of cross-reference (“renvoi”) is characteristic of the “Livre de Caricatures”, as indeed of Diderot’s “Encyclopédie”. In both cases, the entries brought into association often require the reader to make creative connections between the linked pages, reading between the lines in order to extract hidden meanings.

The carnivalesque individual on stilts – who recalls other fairground figures represented in this part of the “Livre de Caricatures” (e.g. 675.16, 675.17, 675.22) – mocks the wearing of a mantle and train, which was a significant characteristic of ceremonial life at the royal court. The longer the train, the more elevated the personage was held to be. Similarly, the stilts indicate high-flown pretension. The likely anti-court message here links with other drawings close by in the “Livre”, including 675.9 on the facing page. (Cf. 675.5-675.6.) The mockery is completed by the Latin caption at the top of the page in Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin’s hand. The phrase was the slogan of the festive society of the “Mère Folle”, which flourished in Dijon between the Renaissance and the mid seventeenth century, and which is referred to throughout the book, including at 675.5.

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:
Je vais enseigner en ville touttes les Sciences demontreés a la page 214
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

Numerus Stultorum Infinitus est.
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, top, in ink

8.
Pagination
Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
I am going to teach in town all the sciences demonstrated on page 214
The number of fools is infinite
Underdrawing:
Around the hat and stilts, in graphite. The tassel on the left of the hat brim was once larger than it is now. The stilts have been shifted slightly to the left of their current position.
Language:
French
Latin

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:

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. 383n
Richard Taws; The precariousness of things; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 327-347; p. 330

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
Robert Darnton; The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopedie, 1775-1800; Cambridge, London; 1979
Sara Beam; Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France; Ithaca; Cornell University Press; 2007

Indexed terms