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De Par le dieu porte Marotte Point de têtte, Point de Calotte

(Marotte-carrier by divine permission, No head, no skull-cap)

Attributed to:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Additional handwriting by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu (b.c 1784, d.1869)
Attributed to Style A
Date:
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
1822-1869 {One inscription by Tardieu}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.71
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A man with a basket on his back walks from the left to the right of the page. He turns his head back towards the front. He is dressed roughly and in ripped clothing. His blue jacket is torn at the elbow, revealing a yellow shirt sleeve, and his right stocking is gathered around his ankle. He wears a floppy hat with an upturned brim from beneath which hangs his straggly hair. In his right hand he carries an enlarged marotte, which serves as a staff. Bells hang from the three lilipres of the jester's motley cap. A second smaller man, seen from the rear, rides in the basket on the man's back. The smaller figure is dressed in a green jacket and yellow breeches and wears a white cap with a black pompom and black feathers. A short strut extends from the top of the basket supporting a large skullcap that hovers above the walking man and the marotte.

Curatorial Commentary

The three inscriptions offer seemingly divergent clues to the intended meaning of this image. One feature of the drawing, the basket, echoes the picture opposite (675.70), which is in the same idiom. The caption at the top of the page, inscribed in an unknown hand, is opaque. The marotte and the “calotte” (skull-cap) in the drawing are evoked in the lower caption, which replicates the opening lines of many of the satirical “brevets” of the aristocratic convivial society, the “Régiment de la Calotte”. The name Bernage, seemingly added later, probably refers to Louis-Basile Bernage de Saint-Maurice, who was targeted by the Régiment, notably in satirical ditties. (Examples of these may be found in Paris, Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, MS 580; and Bibliothèque nationale, MS français, 12675.) Rather than making direct reference to a specific “brevet”, Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin here makes use of the iconography of the Régiment to ridicule the individual in question.

After two decades as royal Intendant in the province of Languedoc, Bernage had returned to Paris to become “prévôt des marchands de Paris” – effectively the head of the Parisian municipality. He was attacked for his alleged parsimoniousness at the time of the Dauphin’s marriage to Marie-Josephine de Saxe in 1747. The lower caption – and possibly the picture too - may refer to this or to some other Parisian festive moment for which Bernage had responsibility.

Charles-Germain composed another drawing of Bernage, entitled “Char du Prevost Bernage” (‘Chariot of Prévôt Bernage’), which was pasted into the “Livre des Saint-Aubin” (Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. RF 52304 recto). This also includes symbols of the “Régiment de la Calotte”, including the marotte and skullcap.

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 especially 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 on 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:
Bernage
Inscription
Inscribed by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, on patch of ground, in ink

De Par le dieu porte Marotte / Point de têtte, Point de Calotte.
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

c'est plus par amitié que pour / gagner son pain
Inscription
Inscribed in an uknown hand, at top, in ink

71
Pagination
Top right corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
Bernage
Marotte-carrier by divine permission, No head, no skull-cap
It is more out of friendship than to earn his bread
Underdrawing:
Pentimenti, around and to left of figures, in graphite; the main figure was once positioned to the left of its current location on the page and figure on its back had a raised arm. The stem of the marotte-staff was once to the right of its present location.
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:

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. 51n
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. 349n

Related literature

Jean-Frédérick, Jean-Louis Soulavie; Mémoires du comte de Maurepas; Paris; Buisson; 1792. vol. iii
Antoine de Baecque, Les éclats du rire: Le Régiment de la calotte, ou les stratégies de la gaieté française (1702-1752), Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, lii, May 1997, 477-511
Antoine de Baecque; Les éclats du rire: La culture de rieurs au XVIIIe siècle; Paris; Calmann-Lévy; 2000

Indexed terms