The Saint-Aubin ‘Livre de caricatures’

drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris

Volume: 2012:06

Series: SVEC

Volume Editors: Colin Jones, Juliet Carey and Emily Richardson

Series Collaborators: Kim de Beaumont, Hunter College, City University of New York; Juliet Carey, Waddesdon Manor; Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Independent scholar; Charlotte Guichard, CNRS / Université Lille 3; James H. Johnson, Boston University; Colin Jones, Queen Mary, University of London; Mark Ledbury, University of Sydney, Australia; Valerie Mainz, University of Leeds; Aileen Ribeiro, Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Emily Richardson, Independent art historian; John Rogister, Ecole pratique des hautes études - Sorbonne, Paris; Katie Scott, Courtauld Institute of Art, London; John Shovlin, New York University; Perrin Stein, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Julian Swann, Birkbeck, University of London; Richard Taws, University College London; Humphrey Wine, National Gallery.

Publication Date: 2012

Pages: 683

ISBN: 978-0-7294-1044-1

Price: £75


Out of public sight for over a hundred years, the Livre de caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises is a remarkable work. This collection of comic and satirical drawings was created by a Parisian luxury embroiderer, Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, at a time of rigid press censorship to entertain a small group of family and friends. For today’s reader the Livre provides not only a series of richly imaginative and varied drawings, but also a fascinating and intriguing commentary on pre-Revolutionary Paris.

In this first comprehensive study of the Livre de caricatures, which includes over 190 illustrations, an international team of scholars investigates the motivations and operations behind the making of the book, and the many facets of Parisian life that it illuminates. Embracing politics and religion, theatre, fashion and connoisseurship, and the court of Versailles and the Parisian streets, the scope of the Livre is immense. The work’s unique quality is evident in its humour – whimsical, fantastical, challengingly allusive, but not without a sharp political edge when targeting clerics, the court and Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour.

Known within the Saint-Aubin family as the Livre de culs, the Livre delights in the transgression of social convention and the keen deflation of vanity and pretence. Contributors explore this irreverent image of eighteenth-century Paris in all its glory. In today’s world, the visual satire of the Livre de Caricatures continues to resonate, instruct and entertain.

Colin Jones and Juliet Carey, Introduction
I. The Livre de caricatures and the Saint-Aubins
Colin Jones and Emily Richardson, 1. Archaeology and materiality
John Rogister, 2. Decoding the Livre de caricatures
Kim de Beaumont, 3. The Saint-Aubins sketching for fun and profit
II. Historical perspectives
John Shovlin, 4. War, diplomacy and faction
Julian Swann, 5. Politics and religion
Valerie Mainz, 6. Gloire, subversively
Humphrey Wine, 7. Madame de Pompadour
III. Sites of culture
Mark Ledbury, 8. Theatrical life
James H. Johnson, 9. Musical culture
Aileen Ribeiro, 10. Fashioning the feminine
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, 11. Costume books and fashion plates
Juliet Carey, 12. The king and his embroiderer
Charlotte Guichard, 13. Connoisseurship: art and antiquities
Perrin Stein, 14. Vases and satire
IV. Contexts
Richard Taws, 15. The precariousness of things
Katie Scott, 16. Saint-Aubin’s jokes and their relation to…
Appendix: form and content analysis
List of illustrations
List of contributors


French Studies

[…] this volume offers a rich analysis of a unique object, sneaking a glimpse into the private life and sense of humour of a family of artists in eighteenth-century Paris, and through them a deeper understanding of the political and cultural happenings that affected the lives of ordinary Parisians.

Voltaire Foundation

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