Coquetier d'argent avec ses salieres

(Silver egg cup with saltcellars)

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


Brief Description:

A fancifully designed egg cup, drawn in monochrome, is centrally positioned on the page. Snake- or eel-like creatures run around the rim of the cup, which is supported by a stem of intertwined branches of coral. The base of the egg cup is composed of leaves (possibly seaweed) that radiate out from the stem, two mussel shells and a flower.

Curatorial Commentary

This drawing of an egg-cup may, or may not, be based on an actual model, but recalls some of the most elaborate metalwork mimicking natural forms by, for example, Juste-Aurèle Meissonier and Thomas Germain – both of whom are mentioned elsewhere in the “Livre de Caricatures”. The object depicted, with its shells and coral forms, is emblematic of the riches of the sea and is a marine counterpart to the vase on the facing page (675.168) comprising plant materials from the earth.

Tubal Cain was the son of Cain who invented the arts of the blacksmith. More pertinently, however, the name was used as a password among free-masons, and thus the picture may well be grouped alongside a small number of other drawings in the “Livre de Caricatures” with masonic themes (e.g. esp. 675.201).

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Coquetier d'argent avec ses salieres
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

inventé par Tubal Caïn
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below first inscription, in ink

Top right corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
Silver egg cup with saltcellars
Designed by Tubal Caïn
Underdrawing, centre of page, in graphite; the figure of a woman with her arms open wide walks towards the right. A small dog stands to the far right of the page.


Part of:
Livre de Caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises. 675.1-389
Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957


Related literature

Catherine Arminjon, Alain Erlande-Brandenburg; Les orfèvres français sous l'Ancien Régime: actes du colloque, 13/14 October 1989; Inventaire général SPADEM; 1994
Christiane Perrin; François Thomas Germain: orfévre des Roi; Editions d'Art Monelle Hayot; 1993

Indexed terms