tels sont les navets que dulac parfumeur vend quinze francs. 1754.

(These are like the turnips that Dulac, perfumier, sells for fifteen francs. 1754.)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
The inscription refers to 1754, but is in the past tense
Place of Production:
Paris, France
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
One of a set, see others


Brief Description:

A deep-purple pot is suspended from a nail by three thin red cords attached to its rim and tied in bows. Leaves sprout from the base of the pot, growing upwards and around its sides. A turnip sprouting tightly furled leaves fills most of the pot.

Curatorial Commentary

Although no evidence has been found for the claim made in the inscription, it is not wholly impossible that such an object did exist. Jean Dulac (1704-86) was a member of the Parisian guild of glove, powder and perfume merchants. He had been received into the guild's “maîtrise” in 1725, elected to the “Jurande” in 1742, and into the “Syndicat” in 1744. His shop in the fashionable Rue Saint-Honoré became a retail outlet for Sèvres porcelain and he specialised in luxury novelty items.

Crazes with a short trade cycle were one of the ways that the fashion shops of the neighbourhood operated, and this applied to accessories as well as to clothing. The turnip was in fact in intellectual fashion in 1754. The appearance in 1750 of the first volume of Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau’s “Traité de la culture des terres, suivant les principes de M. Tull” sparked a wave of enthusiasm for new farming methods along the lines pioneered by English farmers and agronomes such as Jethro Tull. The turnip – a crucial part of English-style rotation methods, but formerly little prized in France - was suddenly modish. Furthermore, perfumers and other manufacturers of cosmetics had, particularly under pressure from doctors, been experimenting for some time with more vegetable-based concoctions, a trend that Duhamel encouraged (Lanoe, 2008). The idea was to replace the more customary metallic ingredients, which were increasingly criticised because of their numerous noxious side-effects.

Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin’s amusement at the extremities of fashion is demonstrated here and there is a probable pun on the word “navet” (turnip), which then, as now, can be used to suggest a dud, and in an artistic context, a daub. His joke is accentuated by the fact the “navette” is also a term for an incense-carrier to which this ornament does bear resemblance. Saint-Aubin thus hits (and associates) the twin targets of fashion and religious superstition.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
tels sont les navets que dulac parfumeur vend / quinze francs. 1754.
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

on les vendoit deux sols huit / jours apres, ce fut une mode.
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, after first inscription, in ink

Top right corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
These are like the turnips that Dulac, perfumier, sells for 15 francs. 1754.
A week later they were being sold for two sols. It was a fashion.
Underdrawing, centre of page, in graphite; a number of male figures can be seen gathered in a circle. The figure at the bottom-left of the group is depicted on one knee.


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

Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau; Traité de la culture des terres, suivant les principes de M. Tull, anglois; Paris; H. L. Guerin; 1750-1761
Anon; Liste du corps des marchands gantiers-poudriers-parfumeurs de la ville, fauxbourgs et banlieue de Paris, pour l'année 1776; Paris; [n. pub.]; 1776
George Lanoë; Histoire de l'école française de paysage depuis Chintreuil jusqu'à 1900; Nantes; 1905
André J. Bourde; Agronomie et agronomes en France au XVIIIe siècle; Paris; Sevpen; 1967
3000 Ans de parfumerie: savons, fards et cosmétiques de l'antiquité à nos jours; Musee d'art et d'histoire, Grasse, 22 juillet-22 octobre 1980; Grasse; Musée d'art et d'histoire en Provence; 1980
Catherine Lanoë; La Poudre et le fard: une histoire des cosmétiques de la Renaissance aux Lumières; Paris; Champ Vallon; 2008

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