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on Estime l'original de ce vase impayable et l'original qui le possede ne vaut pas 5s

(The original of this vase is priceless and the eccentric who owns it is not worth five sous)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Date:
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.114
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A green bottle-shaped vase is positioned centrally on the page. The vase has a gently swelling form that narrows sharply at the shoulders, a thin neck and a broad curling lip that scrolls up at the left, and down at the right. Four elongated oval shapes have been cut from the body of the vase. The vase is mounted in uncoloured rococo mounts. Two thin and elegantly curved handles stretch from the vase’s footed base to the mounts positioned at its neck. Flowers line the vase’s lip.

A row of characters that roughly correspond to the Samaritan script runs across the top of the page.

Curatorial Commentary

This oriental celadon vase, with its elongated cut-outs, is similar to others in the “Livre de Caricatures” (cf. 675.118, 675.183, 675.193). It resembles a stool that is found several times in the engravings of Gabriel Huquier after François Boucher's chinoiserie compositions. In several of these, the stool closely resembles a vase.

It was customary for such Chinese imports to be mounted in elaborate French settings by Parisian “marchands merciers”, to appeal to fashionable European consumers. Adapations included sawing through the body and piercing, rendering the vessel functionally useless, yet amplifying its whimsicality. This satire on artistic values, evident elsewhere in the “Livre de Caricatures” (e.g. 675.102, 675.244, 675.380) is echoed in 675.256, which also implies criticism of the interventions of “marchands merciers” (Cf. Stein, 2012).

The identity of the eccentric said to own the vase is not clear. The oriental appearance of the vase may lead the reader to imagine that the characters inscribed towards the top of the page are Chinese. In fact, as Charles-Germain’s top inscription makes clear, these letters are in Samaritan script, and correspond closely to the first eleven letters of the Hebrew-Samaritan alphabet. The artist's interest in ancient and foreign scripts is also evident in a number of drawings including 675.158, 675.159 and 675.245.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
[Samaritan script]
Inscription
Inscribed, probably by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, top, in ink

Samaritain
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, top, in ink

on Estime l'original de ce vase impayable / et l'original qui le possede ne vaut pas 5s
Inscription
Inscribed in an unknown hand, below image, in ink

114
Pagination
Top left, in ink
Translation of inscription
Samaritan
The original of this vase is priceless and the eccentric who owns it is not worth five sous
Underdrawing:
Underdrawing, centre of page, in graphite; the figure of a woman is visible to the right of the vase. She stands beside what appears to be a market stall with goods laid out on the table.
Language:
French
Hebrew

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:

Kristel Smentek; Rococo Exotic: French Mounted Porcelains and the Allure of the East; The Frick Collection, New York, 6 March-10 June 2007; New York; The Frick Collection; 2007; p. 16, fig. 9
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; p. 294, fig. 13.4
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. 317
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, 397n

Related literature

Carolyn Sargentson; Merchants and luxury markets: the marchands merciers of eighteenth-century Paris; London; Victoria and Albert Museum; 1996
Clive Cheesman; "The curse of Babel": the Enlightenment and the study of writing; Kim Sloan, Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century, London, The British Museum Press, 2003; 202-11
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
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

Indexed terms