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il y a la bien de l'Erudition, des morts, des serpents Et cent joyeusetés qui font rire pour plus de cent franc

(There is much erudition here, dead men, snakes and a hundred merriments that make you laugh for more than a hundred francs.)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Date:
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
ink, watercolour and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.78
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

The façade of a large church or cathedral building fills the background of the left side of the page. Two owl-like birds perch side by side on the ledge dividing the building's two storeys. Beneath the ledge, an arcade is visible and, above, a series of columns.

An untidy composition that includes different objects and creatures is arranged in front of the building. An hourglass with a snake wrapped once around its tapered middle is positioned centrally in the foreground, where foliage is also visible. The snake bites its tail, forming a circle that frames the upper half of the hourglass. Two more snakes are visible, their long, intertwined bodies running from the lower left to the upper right of the page. To the left of the hourglass is a small pyramid and, behind it, a large rectangular tomb engraved with hieroglyphics. Its right corner, which is partly covered with foliage, has crumbled away and is jagged and uneven. A tall urn is visible on the tomb's far right. The lid of the tomb is lifted to reveal a skull, or possibly, the head of a corpse. Balanced on top of the tomb lid is a helmet. To the right of the tomb there is an unidentified triangular object that peaks just below the page's upper edge. The triangle is lightly hatched.

Curatorial Commentary

This drawing might be intended to mock the pretentions to learning implied by emblematic and allegorical genres. The vaguely ecclesiastical setting, the urn, pyramid, helmet, vanitas symbols (hourglass and skull) and snake with its tail in its mouth (a symbol of immortality) make reference to monumental tomb sculpture. That the interlocked Ls created by the lower ends of the snakes’ bodies turn into snakes’ heads could be interpreted as a snipe at the Crown, for they resemble in part the cipher used by kings Louis XV and XVI.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
il y a la bien de l'Erudition, des morts, des serpents / Et cent joyeusetés qui font rire pour plus de cent franc
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

78
Pagination
Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
There is much erudition here, dead men, snakes and a hundred merriments that make you laugh for more than a hundred francs.
Underdrawing:
Underdrawing, centre of page, 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:

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. 372n, 376, 378, fig. 16.11

Related literature

Florence Ingersoll-Smouse; La sculpture funéraire en France au XVIIIe siècle; Paris; Jean Schemit; 1913
Erwin Panofsky; Tomb sculpture: four lectures on its changing aspects from ancient Egypt to Bernini; New York; Harry N Abrams Inc; 1992

Indexed terms