Flutes a Souffler du Courage

(Flute flor whistling up courage.)

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 dressed man rides side-saddle on a giant brown hare, facing right. The hare springs forward, its forelegs raised off the ground. The man is dressed in a blue coat with sleeves that split into several strips of fabric that taper to a point. The strips are trimmed in red and have bells hanging from their ends. Similar strips also hang from the bottom of his coat, which is worn slightly open at the neck, revealing a striped top beneath. He wears blue breeches, red stockings and a spur on his right foot. His hat has a tall four-cornered soft green crown that fans out slightly towards the top. Its two front corners are decorated with alternating large and small beads and are topped by tassels. A string of bells hangs from a cord at the back of the hat. With his raised left hand, the man holds a long tubular instrument with a twisted end, into which he blows, puffing out his cheeks. An object resembling either a bunch of corn ears on short stems or truncated arrows is tucked under his right arm.

The hare runs along the top of a narrow green walkway supported by a wall with slightly sloping sides. A square platform juts out from the middle of the wall, on which "flutes a Souffler / du Courage" is inscribed.

Curatorial Commentary

The meaning of this image is obscure. The soldier-jester, on a giant hare, puffing himself up by blowing on an elongated “flute” carries under his arm a whole sheaf of such “flûtes”. There is something effeminate and mock heroic about the figure: the jester rides side-saddle as a woman would do, and is mounted on an animal renowned for timidity and cowardice. The phrase “se tirer des flûtes” meant to take to one’s heels and it is noticeable that the red stockinged legs of the jester stand out in the centre of the composition. Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin’s “Livre de Caricatures” often pokes fun at the monuments of memorialisation and glory, and placing this duo on a pedestal plays into the mock heroic genre (Mainz, 2012). It is as if the trumpeter was sounding not the charge but the retreat.

This drawing is thematically linked to the early, Style A drawings attributed to Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin in the “Livre de Caricature,” whose style it also copies. However its use of pen and ink and pen and watercolour differs from the flatness of colour and drawing in those works. The washes are delicate and finely modulated and the forms modeled with confident speed (in the head-dress for example). Charles-Germain set off the fluid watercolour with pen and ink: sharply angular in the castellated pedestal; calligraphic in the stylised quiver of arrows and the spiralling shell-flute.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Flutes a Souffler / du Courage
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, on wall, in ink

Top right corner, in bracket, in ink
Translation of inscription
Flutes for whistling up courage.


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



Valerie Mainz; Gloire, subversively; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 151-177; p. 167, fig. 6.9

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