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THE FRENCH VISIT ENGLAND
WATERCOLORS BY GAUDISSART DE CARI
WITH A LONG LETTER DESCRIBING THE JOURNEY
GAUDISSART DE CARI / [GODISSART]. Souvenirs de l’Angleterre. [England and France], Gaudissart, 1826.
Oblong 8vo [19.6 x 12.4 cm], (20) ff. watercolors, with a 16-page letter dated 1826 and 1 leaf (c. 1850) describing the genesis of the work. Bound in contemporary brown sheep, gilt spine and gilt cover borders, title gold stamped on front cover. Very minor rubbing to spine and boards. Front flyleaves loosening a bit, otherwise internally remarkably well preserved, with colors perfectly fresh.
$12,500 Extraordinary volume of 20 charming watercolors recording the 1826 journey to England by members of the French Delahaye family. The work is by the renowned caricaturist Gaudissart de Cari (d. 1848), called the “French Hogarth” and “the greatest master of French caricature during the early 19th century” (Deberdt, p. 6). Gaudissart, a family friend of the Delahaye clan, traveled with them from their home in Pierrefitte, near Saint-Denis, recording the sights they saw across The Channel. Added to this album of fine watercolors is a closely written, 16-page letter addressed by Mlle. Delahaye to her friend Alexandrine upon the Delahayes’ return from England. The letter recounts the family’s journey in great detail from start to finish, and includes several mentions of the (lively) participation of Gaudissart, a man who otherwise is said to have used pseudonyms to protect his identity under a “veil of anonymity” (Deberdt, p. 6). Gaudissart’s album – far from being a typical tourist souvenir – represents a rare personal artifact of the French traveler’s immediate visual experience in England from the first decades of the 19th century.
Principally known for his biting caricatures of the English and their odd habits, especially as found in his collection of engravings Le Musée grotesque (1816-1820), Gaudissart here approaches his subjects (mostly) with a straight face. His refined landscapes, cityscapes and views, each inscribed with a caption, depict a typical London street, St. James’s Palace from the Pall Mall, Christopher Wren’s Monument at Fish Street Hill, London as seen from Greenwich, the countryside near Richmond, the Brighton seaside, London seen from Windsor, Windsor Castle, John Nash’s Indo-Saracenic Royal Pavilion at Brighton (only finished in 1822), the interior of the Tower of London (with Beefeaters as guides), and an interior of the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Palace (with its pendant fan vault ceiling). Gaudissart shows his pictorial range with a striking night scene of Brighton (a full moon, firelight aboard a ship throwing tiny figures into silhouette) and a depiction of a strenuous boat race on the Thames.
A tender, wistful version of Gaudissart’s humor manifests itself here and there: His watercolor of the Duke of Devonshire’s menagerie at Chiswick House – a site in existence only between 1811 and 1836 – depicts a smiling elephant performing a trick as a monkey scurries up a pole. A young member of the Delahaye family is engulfed in her big down bed in a light-filled room at Dover. An Anglican priest declaims from the pulpit at Canterbury. Friends at Pierrefitte wave goodbye to the Delahaye carriage as it departs and welcome the family with open arms upon its return home. The album’s frontispiece shows a classic coach-and-four alighting into the English mist. An extraordinary watercolor records the family’s departure from Dover – its White Cliffs in the background – aboard an early steamship, and this at a time when the renowned painter J. W. M. Turner (1775-1851) had not yet begun his pictorial fascination with these harbingers of modernity.
1.Frontispiece (Souvenirs d’Angleterre)
2. Départ de Pierrefitte pour l’Angleterre
3. Chambre à coucher à Douvres
4. Intérieur d’un temple Anglican à Cantorbery
5. Vue d’une Rue de de Londres
6. Palais de St. James dans Pall-Mall
7. Le Monument à Londres dans Fish-Street-Hill
8. Intérieur de la Salle des Armes dans la Tour de Londres
9. Nef de la Chappelle d’Henry VII dans l’Eglise de Westminster où sont armés les chevaliers du Bain
10. Vue prise de Greenwich près Londres
11. Vue d’une partie de la Ménagerie dans le Parc de Chiswyck
12. Vue prise près Richmont
13. Vue prise sur le bord de la mer à Brighton
14. Vue de Palais du Roi à Brighton
15. Vue prise près Windsor
16. Vue de Château de Windsor
17. Joute de Rameurs sur la Tamise près Greenwich
18. Vue prise de nuit sur le bord de la mer à Brighton
19. Bateau à vapeur en vue du Château de Douvres
20. Retour des Voyageurs à Pierrefitte [signed ‘G. de Cari’]
* *J. Grand-Carteret, Les moeurs et la caricatures en France, pp. 97 and 628; R. Deberdt, “La caricature et l’humour au XIXe siècle,” Revue encyclopédique (1898), p. 6; B. Lynch, A History of Caricature, p. 80; T. Clayton, Caricatures of Peoples of the British Isles, p. 93.
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