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Vase que lon conserve aux benedictins depuis l'an 1107

(Vase that has been kept by the Benedictines since 1107)

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:
675.166
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A lidded vessel, drawn in brown pen and wash, is centrally positioned on the page. It has a narrow base and a rounded body composed of woven, criss-crossing bands, and two looped handles that extend horizontally from its rim, curving upwards. The vessel’s lid is composed of several large leaves, resembling acanthus leaves, whose intertwined stems form the vessel’s knop.

Curatorial Commentary

It is not known whether Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin had a particular vase in mind and the ascribed date seems quite arbitrary. In line with his practice elsewhere in the “Livre de Caricatures”, this drawing satirises, first, the collecting of objects of artistically meretricious value – see for example, his jibes at the collection practices of the celebrated connoisseur, the comte de Caylus (675.126-7). Second, it pokes fun at the credulousness of connoisseurs over the putatively ancient origins of alleged “objets d’art” (Guichard, 2012). (Cf. 675.167.) This drawing also associates the object with religious superstition, invoking reverence for holy relics.

Religious orders are a favourite target in the “Livre de Caricatures”. The ‘fresh butter from the time’ would by now have been appropriately rancid. The style of the vase is rococo rather than medieval– another aspect of the joke perhaps. The “goût moderne” or “goût rocaille” is also satirised in other drawings, for example at 675.171 which is close by.

It is not clear what the vase is made of, but it takes the form of a woven basket with a lid of acanthus leaves. Perrin Stein suggests a deliberate reference here to a Greek legend related by Vitruvius, according to which the Corinthian Order was devised by the Greek architect Callimachus, who came across an acanthus plant that had grown up around a basket containing the remains of a young woman from Corinth. The materials of Charles-Germain’s vase – basket and acanthus leaves – refer to this story, but invert it, for now the leaves cover the top of the basket rather than body (Stein, 2012). Such comic inversion is recurrent in the “Livre de Caricatures”.

Several eighteenth-century designers and producers mimicked plants and materials in metalwork and ceramic confections. They included, in silver, Juste-Aurèle Meissonier, (cf. 675.167), and, in porcelain, the Sèvres manufactory (e.g. “Vases oeufs”, 1768-9, Los Angeles, Getty Museum, 86.DE.520). Although the vase here reflected contemporary fashions, its design might have been intended to evoke archaic, somewhat rustic styles.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
Vase que lon conserve aux benedictins depuis / l'an 1107, il est rempli de beurre frais du tems.
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

166
Pagination
Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
Vase that has been kept by the Benedictines since 1107, it is filled with fresh butter from that time.
Underdrawing:
Underdrawing, centre of page, in graphite; a figure facing forward, but looking towards the lower left of the page is visible. It holds a broom stick and perhaps sweeps a faintly outlined pile positioned to the left of the vase's base.
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, Juliet Carey; Introduction; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 1-27; p. 20n
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. 33
John Rogister; Decoding the Livre de caricatures; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 55-66; p. 65
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. 305, fig. 14.2

Related literature

Marc-Antoine Laugier; Essai sur l'architecture. Nouvelle édition... augmentée; avec un dictionnaire de termes, et de planches qui en facilitent l'explication; Paris; 1755
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