Pomade pour les levres.

(Ointment for the lips)

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 frowning monkey wearing a pink-trimmed peignoir and with pink ribbons about its neck and head, stands backwards on a three-footed armchair upholstered in blue and white striped fabric. The monkey's left elbow rests on the chair-back. Its body faces right and its head is turned back over its shoulder to face the left. Its tail points upwards and its left leg, which is bent at the knee, rests on a toilette table behind it. The table, which is covered in a lace-trimmed cloth, has a mirror, a comb and a number of small boxes scattered over its surface. The monkey examines its bottom in the mirror. It reaches its right paw back and, with one finger extended, applies rouge to its buttocks. In its left paw it holds a small pot. To the right of the chair is a bidet with a white cloth hanging over its side. A five-panelled folding screen runs across the background.

Curatorial Commentary

Given the hostility and scatological humour that Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin displayed towards Madame de Pompadour in the “Livre de Caricatures”, notably in this part of the “Livre de Caricatures” (e.g. 675.276, 282), it is tempting to see this drawing as a pastiche of the ceremonial toilette of Madame de Pompadour, in which she received clients and petitioners and entertained visiting celebrities. Pompadour’s toilette was highlighted by contemporaries as an example of excessive female influence on politics, and also as a triumph for artificiality and appearance over transparency and truth (Jones, 2002, pp. 79-80). The performance of Pompadour’s toilette is well-captured in Boucher’s painting of it, often dated to 1756, but possibly dating from earlier and added to over a period of years (Hyde, 2006, pp.107-44; Hyde, 2000; Gordon & Hensick 2002). The presence of a bidet similar to that featured in the attack on Pompadour at 675.282 is worth noting.

On the other hand there is also a resemblance between this drawing and a scene recounted in the memoirs of the baronne d’Oberkirch (Oberkirch, 1970, pp.159-60). Henriette Louise de Waldner de Freundstein (or Waldner de Freunstein), the baronne d'Oberkirch was an habitué of the courts of Alsace and Vienna as well as Versailles (the latter in the early 1780s). Oberkirch recorded that in Versailles in 1782, the pet monkey of the queen’s lady-in-waiting, the princesse de Chimay, broke its chains while its owner was at the opera and proceeded into her mistress’s “cabinet de toilette” and wreaked havoc on her dressing-table. After covering its face in powder, the monkey ‘appli[ed] rouge and beauty spots on her face, as it had seen its mistress do – only it put the rouge on its nose and the beauty spot in the middle of its forehead’. The monkey then proceeded to terrorise the princesse’s companions.

The caption here suggests that this occurrence involved the ‘Marquise de Cr…’ – a closer fit, possibly, with the princesse de Ch[imay] than the marquise de Pompadour. However, the Chimay incident occurred in the final years of the life of Charles-Germain, when his contributions to the “Livre de Caricatures” seem to have ended. Moreover, the baronne’s memoirs were not published until the nineteenth century, and would not have been known to Charles-Germain (although it is possible that the incident itself may have been). Despite the caption, then, it seems more likely that the drawing refers to Madame de Pompadour. It has been also been suggested that the individual involved may have been the marquise de Créquy, who ostentatiously set her cap at Louis XV (John Rogister, personal communication).

The “Livre de Caricatures” contains several works that draw upon the European tradition of “singerie”, in which monkeys dressed in human clothing mimic human activities. Since the Middle Ages, monkeys had been used to parody the baser aspects of human behaviour. Charles-Germain exploited this tradition, although his work was also informed by the more elegant, and distinctly French form of “singerie” introduced by Jean Berain I, which combined elements from Renaissance grotesque ornament and chinoiserie. Eighteenth-century French “singerie” is particularly associated with Claude Audran III, Claude Gillot and Christophe Huet, whose monkeys dressed as commedia dell’arte figures satirised contemporary society and anticipated Charles-Germain’s “papillonneries” (on which, cf. Mauriès, 1996). The incorporation of the folding screen into Charles-Germain’s scene, particularly recalls Christophe Huet’s scene of a female monkey at her toilette in the so-called “Petite Singerie” at the château de Chantilly.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Pomade pour les levres. inventée par / Madame la Marquise de Cr...
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

Top left corner, in ink; first digit truncated by the page's edge

Top, in ink
Translation of inscription
Ointment for the lips invented by Madame la marquise de Cr...
Pentimento, above screen, in graphite; the folding screen was once differently configured


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



Colin Jones; Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress; London; National Gallery Company; 2002; pp. 79-80
Melissa Hyde; Making up the rococo: François Boucher and his critics; Los Angeles; Getty Research Institute; 2006; pp. 89, 125 fig. 20
Muriel Carre-Gazancon; 'The Sacred Rite of Pride: The art of the toilette in eighteenth-century France' (unpublished MA thesis; University of Glasgow, Christie's; September 2009; p. 125
Herman Lindqvist; Madame de Pompadour; Finland; WSOY; 2010; p. 109 ill.
Aileen Ribeiro; Facing Beauty: Painted Women & Cosmetic Art; New Haven, London; Yale University Press; 2011; p. 175 fig. 112
Colin Jones, The Other Cheek, History Today, 61, November 2011, 18-24; Emily Richardson; p. 22
Colin Jones, Presidential Address. French Crossings. II. Laughing over Boundaries, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 21, December 2011, 1-38; p. 28
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. 2n
Aileen Ribeiro; active 1984-2011; Fashioning the feminine; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 233-248; p. 244
Humphrey Wine; Madame de Pompadour; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 179-190; p. 182, fig. 7.3
(forthcoming) 15350. The Entomology of Ornament: Essai de Papilloneries Humaines and the metamorphoses of Eighteenth-Century Decorative Art

Related literature

Henriette-Louise von Waldner, Baronne d' Oberkirch; Mémoires de la baronne d’Oberkirch sur la cour de Louis XVI et la société française avant 1789; Paris; Mercure de France; 1970. pp. 159-60
Patrick Mauriès; Sur les papillonneries humaines; Paris; Éditions Gallimard; 1996
Melissa Hyde, The "Makeup" of the Marquise: Boucher's Portrait of Pompadour at Her Toilette, The Art Bulletin, 82, 2000, 453-475
Alden Gordon, The Picture within the Picture: Boucher's 1750 Portrait of Madame de Pompadour Identified, Apollo, CLV, February 2002, 21-30; Teri Hensick
Louise Robbins; Elephant Slaves and Pampered Parrots: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century Paris; Baltimore; The John Hopkins University Press; 2002

Indexed terms