Ballet Etrusque renouvellés par Lani 1760.

(Etruscan Ballet, updated by Lani, 1760.)

Attributed to:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Engraved by Jacques Callot (b.c 1592, d.c 1635)
Attributed to Style A
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
1760-1775 {One inscription refers to 1760}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
One of a set, see others


Brief Description:

A comically dressed dancing man with an exaggerated physiognomy is depicted in right profile. He has a large bulbous nose and a long jutting chin, from which a dark goatee sprouts. He is open-mouthed and has a bushy moustache curling upwards. His right leg is bent at the knee and he kicks his right leg out in front of him almost horizontally. His left hand is extended in front of him, palm open towards the front. His left hand hangs at his side. In it he holds a sword with a curved blade decorated with an abstract motif. The man is dressed in a pink hooded shoulder cape trimmed with red and yellow bands, a loose fitting belted yellow jacket and long white trousers which are slit at the ankle to reveal yellow stockings. He wears red shoes with white heels and, over his hood, a yellow cap with a short flap – trimmed in red – covering his neck, and a very long two-lobed brim, which extends towards the upper right corner of the page. The hat is adorned with two long black plumes.

To the right is a white dog standing on its hind legs and facing the left. The dog has a smoking pipe between its teeth and holds a stick in its front paws. Tufts of grass sprout from the patch of earth on which the man and dog stand.

Curatorial Commentary

This drawing may well refer to Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera “Les Paladins” which was first performed in 1760 at the Paris Opéra. It was poorly received. The celebrated dancer Jean-Barthémy Lany and his sister Louise-Madeleine appeared in the production. The ballet’s plot was based on Jean de La Fontaine’s fable, “Le petit chien qui secoue l’argent et de pierreries” (‘The little dog that produced money and jewels’), inspired by Canto XLIII of Ludovico Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso’ (1516). “Le petit chien” of the title is the fairy Manto transformed into a dog which produces money and jewels. The dog dances, speaks, understands and performs all kinds of tricks to get the attention of and eventually to help the hero Atis to seduce Argia. The libretto of “Les Paladins” replaced the dog with a fairy man too, so, if 675.11 does indeed refer to it, the word “renouvellé” in the inscription may evoke the original La Fontaine fable.

Rameau’s opera was set in Venice rather than ‘Etruscan’ Tuscany. The ‘Etruscan style’ in objects and interiors did not develop in France until the mid 1770s and 1780s. Interest in Etruscan art, however, had been prompted by publication of the comte de Caylus’s “Recueil d’antiquités” (1752-67), which contained drawings on which the “Livre de Caricatures” also drew (e.g. 675.126, 675.127). The Etruscan reference in the inscription may also evoke the “Querelle des Bouffons”, the pamphlet wars of the early 1750s which had debated the virtues of French versus Italian music.

The figure here is based fairly directly on an etching in Jacques Callot’s series of drawings, ‘The Dances called Sfessania’ (“I balli di Sfessania”, c. 1621, London, British Museum, inv. 1861, 1713.879). The series, which was one of the first works composed by Jacques Callot upon his return to Nancy after eight years in Florence. consisted of 24 images of performing figures. Although often interpreted as figures drawn from the commedia dell’arte, in fact they were inspired by the ‘moresca’ dance (Posner, 1977). This particular drawing is based on Callot’s etching of the performer Guatsetto, who was depicted alongside a similarly attired character, Mestolino. The costume, sword and beard are similar, although here the figure is dancing with his left leg forward and right leg bent in contrast with Callot’s figure who stands with both feet on the ground. Instead of the downturned nose of Callot’s figure, the man in here has an exaggeratedly bulbous nose.

Callot’s work was highly influential in France and Italy in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nparticularly on the developing traditions of caricature (Manuela Kahn-Rossi, 1993). His highly stylised figures were often presented in witty, disproportioned pairs and with grotesque characterisations – characteristic features of the “Livre de Caricatures”.

The “Chevaliers de l’Ordre des Fous” evoked at the top of the page were a festive society founded in the German marquisate of Clèves in 1381. According to the antiquarian du Tilliot’s “Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire des fête des fous” (1751, p. 81), the group was the model for the “Mère Folle” society which flourished in Dijon from the late fifteenth to the mid seventeenth centuries, and which is featured heavily throughout the “Livre de Caricatures” (e.g., 675.19, 675.179, 675.373, 675.385). As noted at 675.5, Bontemps was also the name of the son of the Mère Folle.

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
Ballet Etrusque. renouvellés par Lani 1760.
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

Bontems l'un des fous de Cleves
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, top, in ink

Top right corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
Etruscan Ballet, updated by Lany, 1760.
Bontems, one of the fools of Cleves


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



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. 351n

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
Anne-Claude-Philippe de Tubières-Grimoard de Pestels de Lévis, comte de Caylus; Recueil d'antiquités égyptiennes, étrusques, grecques, romaines, et gauloises; Paris; Desaint et Saillant; 1752-1767
Pierre-Jean Mariette, Anatole de Montaiglon, Philippe de Chennevieres(-Pointel); Abecedario de P.J. Mariette, et autres notes inédites de cet amateur sur les arts et les artistes; Paris; J.-B. Dumoulin; 1851-1860. see 'Jacques Callot', vol. i, pp. 258-92
Émile Campardon; L'Académie royale de musique au XVIIIe siècle: documents inédits découverts aux Archives Nationales; Paris; Berger-Levrault et Cie; 1884
Denise Launay; La Querelle des Bouffons: texte des pamphlets; Geneva; Minkoff; 1973
Donald Posner, Jacques Callot and the Dances called Sfessania, The Art Bulletin, lix, June 1977, 203-16
Peter Wolf; Jean-Philippe Rameau, Les Paladins, comédie lyrique, facsimile with notes and introduction; New York; 1986
Anna Forlani Tempesti; Callot et Stefano Della Bella: fêtes et "caramogi"; Daniel Ternois, Jacques Callot (1592-1635). Actes du colloque organisé par le Service culturel du museé du Louvre et la ville de Nancy, à Paris et à Nancy les 25, 26 et 27 juin 1992, Paris, Klincksieck, 1993; 481-502
Manuela Kahn-Rossi; Le Role de Jacques Callot dans la naissance d'un genre: la caricature; Daniel Ternois, Jacques Callot (1592-1635). Actes du colloque organisé par le Service culturel du museé du Louvre et la ville de Nancy, à Paris et à Nancy les 25, 26 et 27 juin 1992, Paris, Klincksieck, 1993; 263-87
Sara Beam; Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France; Ithaca; Cornell University Press; 2007

Indexed terms