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Ce vase apres avoir servy de pot de chambre a Semiramis passa aux romains

(This vase, after having served as a chamberpot to Semiramis, passed to the Romans)

Attributed to:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Attributed to
Date:
1752?
Drawing is based on an illustration in Caylus, "Recueil d'antiquités" (1752)
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
ink, watercolour and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.126
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A green round-bodied vessel that narrows at the neck and has a lip around its rim, is centrally located on the page. It throws a short shadow to the left. The vessel is decorated with a star-like motif and has a single handle, which is positioned towards its right side. The handle rises from the middle of the vessel, rising above its rim before curving back to join it.

Curatorial Commentary

The target of this satirical comment appears to be the comte de Caylus, the celebrated patron, collector, writer and engraver, who was a friend of the Saint-Aubin family. The source for the drawing is Caylus, i, 1752, pl. XLIII, fig. V. The vessel, there described as a bronze vase, is catalogued alongside other Etruscan artefacts on pp.113-114. Volume i of Caylus’s pioneering work of antiquarian scholarship was a source for the images at 675.127, 675.186, 675.187, 675.189, 675.205 and 675.207, many of which display a similar humour.

As in the drawing on the opposite page (675.127), Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin makes light of Caylus’s scholarly endeavours through the creation of an elaborate mock provenance for the vase, tracing it back to its days as a chamber-pot owned by the mythical Assyrian queen, Semiramis, who may have existed nearly a thousand years BC. (More topically, she was also the subject of a tragedy published by Voltaire in 1748, which had flopped at the theatre.) Charles-Germain also cites Maria van Schurman, a proto-bluestocking of German-Dutch nationality, reputed for her scholarship and her defence of female education – and not for any beauty, as might be suggested by the association with a pomade container; and the extraordinary queen Christina of Sweden, who abdicated the Swedish throne to pursue life as a devout Catholic.

Overall, the satire is pointed by making this undistinguished object a chamberpot, pomade-container and a gifted holy-water container before it assumed status as the object of antiquarian scholarship. The fact that all these collectors were women – with the exception of the comte de Caylus – is implicitly denigratory about the masculinity of collectors in general and Caylus in particular. (For another dig at Caylus’s sexuality, cf. 675.000).

There is an underdrawing on this page which depicts a hunchbacked Polichinelle holding a pair of tongs in his left hand and a grill in his right. The source of the image may have been a figure by the French painter and engraver, Henri Bonnart, which was included in a series of engravings entitled, the “Recueil des modes de la cour de France” (c.1678-93). (An example can be found in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, côte, RC-A-85941.)

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
Ce vase apres avoir servy de pot de chambre a Semiramis / passa aux romains qui en firent une mesure publique, / depuis ce tems, on ignore ces differentes destination jus / qu'a marie Schurman, qui s en servit de pot a pomade, / Christinne de Suede l'acheta en 1656 pour faire un / benitier au pappe. Mr le Comte de Caylus qui le / possede travaille depuis 20 ans a sa genealogie
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink'; the 'r' of 'Mr' is written in superscript.

126
Pagination
Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
This vase, after having served as a chamberpot to Semiramis, passed to the Romans, who made it into a public measure. We do not know its different destinations from that time until its acquisition by Marie Schurman, who used it as an ointment pot. Christina of Sweden bought it in 1656 to give to the pope as a holy water stoup. M. le comte de Caylus, who owns it, has worked on its genealogy for 20 years.
Underdrawing:
Underdrawing, centre of page, in graphite; a hunchbacked man walks towards the right. He wears a tall hat with plumes rising to the left of the crown. He appears to carry a box-like object. Behind him, a large barrel on its side is visible.
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:

Kim de Beaumont; The Saint-Aubins sketching for fun and profit; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 67-92; p. 84
Charlotte Guichard; Connoisseurship: art and antiquities; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 283-300; pp. 285, 286, 291-2
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. 34n
Perrin Stein; Vases and satire; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 301-323; p. 307, fig. 14.4
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. 397n
Kimberley Chrisman-Campbell; Costume books and fashion plates; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 249-260; p. 258, fig. 11.7

Related literature

François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire; Sémiramis, tragédie par Monsieur de Voltaire; 1748
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. i (1752), pl. xliii and pp.112-14
Victor Advielle; Renseignements intimes sur les Saint-Aubin, dessinateurs et graveurs, d'après les papiers de leur famille; Paris; L Soulié; 1896
Pierre Duchartre; La Comédie italienne: l'improvisation, les canevas, vies, caractères, portraits, masques des illustres personnages de la commedia dell'arte; Paris; Libraire de France; 1924
Ronald Ridley, A pioneer art-historian and archaeologist of the eighteenth century: the comte de Caylus and his Recueil, Storia dell'arte, lxxvi, 1992, 362-75
Julie Boch; L'Archéologie comme projet ésthétique: Le "Recueil d'antiquités" du comte de Caylus; Nicholas Cronk, Kris Peeters, Le Comte de Caylus: les arts et les lettres; actes du colloque internationale, Université d'Anvers (UFSIA) et Voltaire Foundation, Oxford, 26-27 mai 2000, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2004; 79-94
Charlotte Guichard; 'Les amateurs d'art à Paris dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle' (unpublished doctoral dissertation; Université de Paris-1 Sorbonne; 2005. pp. 364-69
Charlotte Guichard; Les amateurs d'art à Paris au XVIIIe siècle; Seyssel; Champ Vallon; 2008. pp. 364-69

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