DANCING DEVILS AND PILFERED PEARS

Cahier de dessins.

[Villiers-en-Bière], c. 1896.

Folio, ff. 20, [14], [16 (blank)]; drawings to rectos only, the first 20 ff. in ink and the following 14 ff. in ink and coloured pencil, graphite landscape and ink studies of Greek busts loosely inserted, f. 1v dated 1896 in a contemporary hand; edges browned and chipped, soiling to cover; restitched in the twentieth century with green and gold thread and pasted into a collage wrapper (see below) incorporating the original calligraphic blue paper wrapper.

£875

Approximately:
US $1130€1037

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An album of fin-de-siècle sketches by fifteen-year-old Sara Thérèse d’Aurignac, comprising humorous vignettes, imaginative anthropomorphism, dancing devils, and scenes of leisure.

The niece of notorious fraudster Thérèse Humbert (née d’Aurignac), Sara Thérèse d’Aurignac (1881–1974) was born in Villiers-en-Bière and married engineer Maurice Picquet at the age of nineteen, four years after the compilation of this sketchbook. Alongside her numerous studies of Belle Époque fashions are charmingly rendered depictions of men and women riding bicycles, reading newspapers, conversing outside restaurants, enjoying a day at the park, and visiting museums.

Her scenes of bourgeois leisure are frequently disrupted, however, by elements of playful dynamism and chaos: the winds, personified as putti, blow strong gusts up a lady’s skirt and blow her companion’s umbrella inside-out, a young girl picks her nose, and amidst a serene ice-skating scene we find a dog on skates, a goose and her young skidding along the ice, and one unfortunate skater who has fallen flat on his face. Particularly amusing are her images of devils dining, attending balls, cooking (sautéing men in a skillet) hunting bats, and lounging by the fire, and a scene enthusiastically titled ‘Concert!!!’ featuring a chicken-headed violinist, a graceful mandolinist with the head of a giraffe, and an elephant as accompanist. There follow fourteen pages of equally humorous comic-style vignettes in colour, including, inter alia, a pair of pear thieves who are caught by a guard, a parody of William Tell (here depicted as a clown) shooting an apple off his son’s head, and a pig rescued from slaughter using a pig-shaped pain d’épice as a decoy.

The sketchbook has been restitched into twentieth-century wrappers incorporating a fragment of Sara Thérèse’s original calligraphic blue paper wrapper, within a vibrant collage border comprising colourful images of animals (including an armadillo), soldiers, musicians, clowns, children, young women, and men in eighteenth-century dress; it is unclear whether the sketchbook was embellished by a friend, a relative, or by Sara Thérèse herself.

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