Thursday, October 7, 2010

An English Family of the Regency in Paris, 1802

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Susan reports:

There are certain animosities in history that seem to persist century after century, unshaken through war and peace. The English have never had much use for the French, and the French in turn don't have much regard for the English. One of the most damning ways any 18th-19th c. English caricaturist could ridicule his subject was to "Frenchify" him or her.

But what's sauce for the goose is also sauce for le jars.  While English artists like Gillray and Rowlandson were busily creating effete, frog-laden images of the French, the French were sharpening their own drawing-pens as well. While we've seen examples of elegant French people swimming in Le Supreme Bon Ton, the same artists were being, ahh, inspired by English tourists visiting Paris.

The French couple, above, is shown as graceful and elegant (with the lady displaying considerable decolletage), and in the middle of a quintessentially French flirtation. But stolid John Bull is a tedious family man. He clearly over-indulges in heavy English food and wears wrinkled, old-fashioned-country-squire dress, while his ladies are likewise shown in grimly unflattering clothes and exaggerated bonnets (which we last saw in another Bon Ton cartoon; now I'm thinking that those couples must have been English, too.) Mrs. Bull is hatchet-faced, and both she and her daughters are obviously corseted and pointedly unalluring, with nary a seductive curve in sight. To call them stodgy would be kind. The oldest Miss Bull turns back to look with longing at the French gentleman, and it's clear that she'd be agreeable to his advances if he'd only deign to notice her – and, of course, if she could be pried free of her family.

A further note on foreign interpretations: We NHGs do have a weakness for beaux and macaronis in all their painted 18th c. glory, but we'd never imagined the latest permutation of macaroni-dom. Apparently MTV will be launching the Jersey Shore on an unsuspecting Japanese public next spring. While their marketing teams found that Japanese viewers are eager for this latest glimpse into the idiocy of Americans (doubtless confirming a great many of their own stereotypes, and, really, who can blame them?), the delicate connotations of the title were lost in translation. Further explanation was needed. Thus when the show makes it debut in Japan, it will have a subtitle: Jersey Shore – the New Jersey Life of Macaroni Rascals.

Not even we could make that up....

Above: La famille Anglaise a Paris, published in Le Supreme Bon Ton No. 11 by Aaron Martinet, Paris, 1800-1805.


Always Trista said...

LOL, those poor English ladies look like wooden close-pin dolls.Where did you hear that about the Japanese Jersey Shore? The Situation as a macaroni is too funny!

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining cartoon. Thank you for posting. As for the 'macaroni rascals' I am proud of never having watched so much as a minute of Jersey Shore!

Barbara Simmons

Susanna Fraser said...

What a great image! Thanks for posting it.

Macaroni Rascal sounds like a great name for a racehorse, or maybe a very comic series of spy romances: "Everyone calls them the Macaroni Rascals, but they're secretly agents in the service of the King!"

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Trista, the Macaroni Rascals story is all over the 'net - sorry I can't take credit for breaking it!

Barbara, you aren't missing a thing. :)

Susanna, I loved the sound of the MR's, too. Plus, if you think about it, the guys on JS really are a lot like the 18th c. macaronis: vain, self-centered, and awfully concerned with their appearances. Ahh, nothing ever really changes, does it? :)

librarypat said...

Have never watched Jersey Shore and have no desire to. This past week, the BONES episode dealt with a group of Jersey Shore types. Brennan's anthropological evaluation of the "tribe" is just too funny.
Thanks for an interesting post.

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