Achetés de mes bagatelles

(Buy my bagatelles)

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 man stands facing obliquely towards the right, but turns to look towards the upper left. He is depicted with his mouth slightly open. The man is dressed in an unbuttoned brown coat that hangs open at the front, a brown waistcoat and breeches, grey stockings and shoes, and he wears a black three-cornered hat. His knees are bent slightly and his left arm extended outwards. He holds a penny whistle or flageolet in his left hand and, with his right, supports the corner of an open-sided box that he wears on a strap over his right shoulder. A variety of small objects are spread over the three shelves contained in the box, from which two red cords and what might be a string of beads dangle at the front.

Standing to the left of the man is a smiling young girl or diminutive woman with rosy cheeks who looks up at him, offering him a sealed envelope in her left hand. A large wicker basket hangs over her right arm. She is dressed in a pale green dress with a dark green band at the hem, a white apron, bib and bonnet.

Curatorial Commentary

The pedlar crying his wares may be a native of Savoy, for he wears the brown-coloured clothing and three-cornered hat typically sported by Savoyard men, who, due to the poverty of their mountainous home land, migrated annually to Paris in search of employment (Munhall, 1968). Savoyards also acted as a primitive postal service, as is highlighted by the girl handing the pedlar a letter. Several of the Savoyard figures in in the collection of etchings by Augustin de Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain’s brother, entitled “Mes Gens, ou les commissionnaires ultramontains au service de qui veut les payer” (1766-70) were of young message-carriers (“commissionnaires”). These are highly stylised versions of these poor migrants, and resemble the sanitised theatrical Savoyards also evident in drawings at 675.98, 675.232 and 675.249.

The pedlar in particular recalls the traditional representation of the “cris de Paris”, a popular pictorial genre dating back to the Renaissance, representing the Paris street traders hawking their wares. These range from cheap woodcuts mass produced for a popular audience, to lavish and refined suites of engravings destined for the portfolios of wealthy connoisseurs (Milliot, 1995). A number of “cris de Paris” type drawings can be found in the “Livre de Caricatures” (see, for e.g., 675.24, 675.123 and 675.140).

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Achetés de mes bagatelles / je vends de tout a juste prix / peignes d'ivoire pour les belles / peignes de corne pour les maris. / vla des ciflets pour les pieces nouvelles / depuis longtems j'en fournis a paris.
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

Top left corner, in bracket, in ink
Translation of inscription
Buy my bagatelles, I sell everything at a fair price. Ivory combs for the beautiful ladies, combs of horn for the husbands. Here are whistles for new plays. For a long time I have supplied these to Paris.


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



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, fig. 16.17

Related literature

Edgar Munhall, Savoyards in French Art, Apollo, lxxii, February 1968, 86-94
Vincent Milliot, Le travail sans le geste. Les représentations iconographiques des petits métiers parisiens (XVI-XVIIIe s.), Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, xli, January 1994, 5-28
Vincent Milliot; Les Cris de Paris: les représentations des petits métiers parisiens (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles); Paris; Publications de la Sorbonne; 1995

Indexed terms