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dessein d'un Sceau de la mere folle

(Design of a bronze seal of the Mère Folle in the cabinet of Monsieur du Tilliot, at Dijon.)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Gabriel-Jacques de (b.1724, d.1780)
Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Additional handwriting by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu (b.c 1784, d.1869)
Date:
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
1822-1869 {One inscription by Tardieu}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
ink and graphite on paper; children in graphite, on small rectangular piece of paper pasted to the page.
Accession number:
675.385
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A rectangular piece of paper on which a young boy and girl have been drawn is pasted towards the top of the page. The girl sits and the boy stands beneath a tree on a raised patch of land within an orchard setting. A ladder is visible in the background to the right of the figures and a small bridge can be seen in the foreground to the right of the page. The girl faces obliquely towards the left but looks back towards the right. She leans against a basket, its handle over her right arm, and extends her left arm towards the boy. In her hand she holds a stick from which hang three cherries. She dangles the fruit above the upturned face of the boy, who is depicted with his eyes closed and mouth open. The boy stands on his toes, his body angled towards the left. Having tipped his head back, his hat has fallen on the ground behind him.

The paper is pasted onto the ornamental surround of an overmantel, which it partially covers, and is positioned above a chimneypiece. The two columns of the chimneypiece are decorated with sculpted, reed-like vegetation. A floral swag hangs from beneath its upper edge.

Between the two columns of the chimneypiece, is a medallion, drawn in ink. The Latin inscription, "SAPIENTES STULTI ALIQUANDO" scrolls around its edge and, at its centre, there is a double-faced portrait of a man in right profile. The two faces, which share the same mouth, can be viewed when upright and when turned upside-down. The uppermost face is framed by a jester’s cap with bells hanging from its four liliripes and the lower face wears a hat with a thin brim and broad flat crown. The double-face is depicted against a shaded background.

Curatorial Commentary

This is a page of two very distinct parts. The fireplace and overmantle which frame the two parts are probably the work of Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin’s brother Gabriel (Kim de Beaumont, personal communication). The overmantle scene shows two flirtatious children in a cherry orchard. Its theme recalls the earliest-known print after a painting by Gabriel, “Les Enfants bien avisés” (reproduced and discussed by de Beaumont in “Gabriel de Saint-Aubin”, 2007, pp.33-4).

Drawn in the space inside the fireplace, in Charles-Germain’s hand and in a quite different idiom, is a copy of the seal of the convivial society of the “Mère Folle”, which, the inscription states, is copied from an example in the collection of Jean Benigne Lucotte du Tilliot in Dijon, but was probably drawn from du Tilliot’s “Mémoire pour servir à l’histoire de la fête des fous” (1751). The seal features two conjoined heads, each of which becomes apparent when the object is rotated by 180 degrees. The design, which is of a type often used in satirical medals, embodies the different facets of a single person, here, perhaps the fool and the scholar, both identifiable by their respective head dress - the fool's cap and bells and, possibly, the flat-brimmed hat, which may be an academic cap or mortar. Learned folly is an appropriate device for the “Livre de Caricatures” and its authors. The legend “sapientes stulti aliquando” (‘the wise are sometimes silly’) is also inscribed on the drawing at 675.303.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
62 x 90
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
SAPIENTES STULTI ALIQUANDO
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, in medallion, in ink

dessein d'un Sceau de la mere folle, en / bronze dans le cabinet de mr du tillot / a Dijon.
Inscription
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink; the 'r' of 'mr' is written in superscript.

souvent un sot avise bien un sage
Inscription
Inscribed by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, above medallion, in ink

385
Pagination
Top right corner, in bracket, in ink
Translation of inscription
Wise men are sometimes foolish
Design of a bronze seal of the" Mère Folle" in the cabinet of Monsieur du Tilliot, at Dijon.
Sometimes a fool gives good advice to a wise man
Language:
French
Latin

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:

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; pp. 81, 86n, fig. 3.6
Charlotte Guichard; Connoisseurship: art and antiquities; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 283-300; p. 296
Colin Jones, Emily Richardson; Archaeology and materiality; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 31-53; pp. 45n, 46, 50n
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; pp. 349n, 372n

Related literature

Jean-Bénigne Lucotte, seigneur du Tilliot; Mémoire pour servir l'histoire de la fête des foux qui se fait autrefois dans plusieurs églises; Lausanne, Geneva; [n. pub.]; 1751
Maurice Lever; Le Sceptre et la marotte. Histoire des fous de cour; Paris; Fayard; 1983
Kim de Beaumont; Reconsidering Gabriel de Saint-Aubin: The Biographical Context for His Scenes of Paris; Colin B. Bailey, Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724-1780), New York, The Frick Collection, New York, 30 October 2007-27 January 2008, musée du Louvre, Paris, 28 February-26 May 2008, The Frick Collection, 2007

Indexed terms