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LES TALENS DU JOUR

(The talents of the day.)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Additional handwriting by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu (b.c 1784, d.1869)
Date:
1758
1822-1869 {One inscription by Tardieu}
Inscription gives the date as 1758
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.359
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

The scene is set in an elaborately trellised garden space. At the right of the page sits a smiling woman in a rose-coloured court dress. A tambour frame on a stand rests on her knee and she is shown pulling a needle from one side of the embroidery cloth to the other.

At the centre of the page is a sculpture of Cupid on a stone pedestal with concave sides. His wings are just visible above his shoulder blades and a quiver full of arrows hangs at his side. A light-green cape hangs loosely over his back. The pedestal bears the inscription ‘LES / TALENS / DU JOUR’ and the date 1758.

The figure of Cupid hands a second embroidery frame to an elegantly dressed man in a powdered bagwig, who approaches him from the left, extending both his hands to receive the frame. At his feet and to side of the pedestal, lie discarded objects: a sword, an open book of musical score, an armillary globe, and a large compass. A flag attached to a long spear from which hangs a tassel lies diagonally across the picture space. Beneath it, the caption "Qui que tu Sois, voicy ton maitre / il le fut, L'Est, ou le doit être", is written on a scroll.

Curatorial Commentary

This work draws upon a wide range of cultural associations to satirize the court of Louis XV as a topsy-turvy realm, centred on the king’s mistress. In this drawing, the professional “brodeur du roi”, Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, used the fashionable pastime of elite “amateurs” to poke fun at the royal court. The emasculation of male courtiers, and by extension, the king, is demonstrated by their adoption of embroidery, traditionally a pastime of women. This is spelt out in the inscription, added later, by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu in the early nineteenth century.

Charles-Germain’s inscription on the fictive scroll on the ground quotes from an inscription by Voltaire for a statue of Amour for the gardens of Maisons (1723-24): ‘Qui que tu sois, Voicy ton Maitre: Il le fut, il l’est, ou doit l’être.’

The statue of Cupid, of Saint-Aubin’s invention, recalls contemporary works of art in various media. These include the painting, “L’Amour menaçant” by Charles-Antoine Coypel (1755, lost), known from a print by Jean Daullé, which was published with the same couplet by Voltaire about Love’s mastery inscribed on the present drawing. It also closely recalls Jacques-François Saly’s “L’Amour” (1735, Louvre), which Madame de Pompadour commissioned for her château de Bellevue, where it was displayed until 1757, when the château was sold to the king and the statue transferred to Pompadour’s Hôtel d’Evreux in Paris. Etienne-Maurice Falconet’s enormously successful “L’amour menaçant” (Louvre) was exhibited at the Salon of 1757. The marble was also destined for the Hôtel d’Evreux. Contemporary copies of it were inscribed with the same Voltaire couplet as in Saint-Aubin’s inscription. These included a Sèvres porcelain biscuit miniaturisation of Falconet’s marble, first produced in 1758. Edme Bouchardon’s “L’amour faisant un arc dans la massue d’Hercule” (1750, Louvre) had recently acquired notoriety for its perceived inappropriateness for a formal state setting and it was subsequently associated with the more secluded environments designed to facilitate and frame the king’s relationship with Madame de Pompadour. The statue was displayed in the Orangerie at Choisy, to which, according to the “Livre de Caricatures” (675.165), Louis XV was wont to withdraw and to lead an inappropriately domestic life away from this duties as a ruler.

The male courtier has here cast aside the attributes of the arts and sciences and his warrior’s sword, and instead stands poised to accept an embroidery frame and needle from Cupid. If he holds a drum (also tambour in French), it is not the accompaniment to military glory but the “tambour” for embroidering. The latter also resembles a tambourine, often held by Hercules in depictions of the demi-god with Omphale, and this underscores the theme of the emasculated needle-working man epitomised by the story of Hercules and Omphale, which informed many works of art in eighteenth-century France.

The memoirs of the English musician and singer Ann Ford provide evidence that men did embroider on the tambour at the court of Louis XV (Ribero, 2012; Carey, 2012). The favoured pastimes of the foppish “petit-maître” in contemporary plays often included embroidery and other needlework (Carey, 2012).

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
LES / TALENS / DU JOUR
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, on pedestal, in ink

1758
Inscription
Inscribed, probably by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, on pedestal, in ink

Qui que tu Sois, voicy ton maitre / il le fut, L'Est, ou le doit être.
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, on fictive scroll, in ink

En 1758 les hommes de la haute société brodaient en compagnie des Dames. En compensation, c’était une femme qui gouvernait l’Etat. On jouait alors au monde renversé. La Noblesse était aussi méprisable que son Roi.
Inscription
Inscribed by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, bottom, in ink

359
Pagination
Top right corner, in bracket, in ink
Translation of inscription
The talents of the day.
Whoever you are, here is your master. He was, is and has to be your master
In 1758, men in high society embroidered in the company of women. To compensate, it was a woman who governed the State. It was like a world turned upside down. The nobility were as despicable as their king.
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, The Other Cheek, History Today, 61, November 2011, 18-24; Emily Richardson; pp. 23-4
Kim de Beaumont; The Saint-Aubins sketching for fun and profit; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 67-92; p. 73n
Juliet Carey; The king and his embroiderer; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 261-282; pp. 261, 263-82, fig. 12.1
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; pp. 20n, 25
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. 242
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. 187
(forthcoming) 7166. Needling: Embroidery and Satire in the Hands of Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin

Related literature

Rozsika Parker; The subversive stitch: embroidery and the making of the feminine; London; I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd; 1984
Thomas Kaiser, Madame de Pompadour and the Theaters of Power, French Historical Studies, xix, Fall 1996, 1025-44
Clare Crowston; Fabricating women: seamstresses of Old Regime France; Durham; Duke University Press; 2001
Colin Jones, The fabrication of Madame de Pompadour, History Today, 52, November 2002, 36-43
Rachel Akpabio, Madame de Pompadour at Waddesdon Manor, Apollo, clv, 2002, 27-31
Dimitri Ozerkov, Satish Padiyar, Sarane Alexandrian; The Triumph of Eros: Art and Seduction in 18th-century France; Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House, London, exh cat; The Triumph of Eros: Art and Seduction in 18th-century France; 24 Nov 2006 - 8 Apr 2007; London; Fontanka; 2006

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