loading

il a falu du genie pour composer cette allegorie il faudra de l'Esprit pour la devinner.

It took genius to compose this allegory, one will need wit to solve it.)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Additional handwriting by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu (b.c 1784, d.1869)
Date:
1745-c 1775
1822-1869 {One inscription by Tardieu}
Drawing postdates Madame de Pompadour's reception at court in 1745
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.150
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A bee skep (woven hive) is situated on a raised earthen platform with a two-stepped base. A garland of red and blue flowers emerges from beneath the skep and winds to the right, where the crouched figure of a man is prostrate at the foot of the raised mound, facing left. His head is bowed and hidden in his arms, which are folded across his front. He wears a blue top with ragged sleeves, red breeches and mules that slip from his feet. Above him is an unfurled roll of paper covered in illegible writing and hanging from a shepherd’s crook, which emerges from behind the skep and points towards the upper right. Ribbons are tied beneath the head of the crook. To the left of the earthen mound and peeping out from behind it is a fox with one raised paw is visible. The fox’s mouth is open.

A trellis runs behind the scene and a thick dark forest grows in the background.

Curatorial Commentary

Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin seems to throw down a challenge to the reader to solve this allegorical drawing. Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, husband of the artist’s grand-daughter, Eugéne-Isabelle de Bonnaire, who inherited the book in December 1822, offers an answer (in black ink at the foot of the page), which may in fact not be correct in all particulars. The shepherd’s crook does seem to reference Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s powerful mistress, who on several occasions adopted pastoral guises for theatrical performance and who is depicted holding a crook at 675.225 of the “Livre de Caricatures”. Tardieu’s claim that the crouched individual worships the kind of panier worn beneath formal court dresses, may not, however, be correct. The woven structure would be more imaginatively viewed not as a panier but as a bee skep – with Pompadour installed as queen bee. The drawing, then, comments on the topsy-turvy state of the court of Versailles, then governed by a woman (on which, cf. 675.359).

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
Il a falu du genie pour composer cette allegorie / Il faudra de l'Esprit pour la devinner.
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

On se met a genoux devant un panier. Les femmes portaient des paniers / sous leurs jupons. un renard en rit en arriere. La houlette signe de /
commandement indique qu'il s'agit de la Marquise de Pompadour.
Inscription
Inscribed by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, bottom, in ink

150
Pagination
Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
It took genius to compose this allegory, one will need wit to solve it.
People kneel before a panier. Women wore paniers beneath their skirts. In the background, a fox laughs at this. The crook, sign of command, suggests that it is about the marquise de Pompadour.
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. 43
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. 372n

Related literature

Thomas Kaiser, Madame de Pompadour and the Theaters of Power, French Historical Studies, xix, Fall 1996, 1025-44
Rachel Akpabio, Madame de Pompadour at Waddesdon Manor, Apollo, clv, 2002, 27-31
Colin Jones; Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress; London; National Gallery Company; 2002
Simon Werrett; Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts & Sciences in European History; Chicago; University of Chicago Press; 2010

Indexed terms