The Middle East: Inferno


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President Obama

President Obama

On Friday, I wrote a post that I did not publish. It was about the systematic obstructionism and scapegoating Barack Obama has faced from the moment he was elected to the presidency of the United States. The word systematic is my keyword. Extremists Republicans seem to have gathered to plan President Obama’s demise. The post I wrote will no be published because we know that whatever goes wrong, it’s always the President’s fault or the fault of his administration.

We also know that the main motivation on the part of Congress is avoidance of taxation. Taxes are the “the freedom we surrender” to live in safety. (The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651) and safety includes the creation of social programmes. Responsible citizens do not invite a government shutdown costing billions simply to ensure they get tax cuts, which is unlikely to be the case if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act survives constant attacks. I believe it’s there to stay.

Dante is lost in Canto 1 of the Inferno. Gustave Doré

Dante is lost in Canto 1 of the Inferno.
Gustave Doré

The President Hesitated

First, yes the President Obama hesitated.

Having said the above, let’s look at inferno: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).

Yes, there was an attempt to save journalist James Foley, but President Obama hesitated before entering Syria and he did so for good reasons. He was attempting to rescue Jim Foley, but entering a sovereign nation can be interpreted as an act of war and invite retaliation. I realize that there are air strikes as I write and that the U.S. is protecting agencies dropping food to victims of Isil, but, unfortunately, intervention can be perceived as interference.

It would appear James Foley was executed on 19 August 2014, in the Syro-Arabian desert, by a terrorist who has been identified as a Londoner. But there may have been two executioners.

In other words, no sooner was Osama bin Laden found and killed, that terrorists regrouped and named themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), or Is, which is extremely alarming. One thinks terrorism is over, just as the war is over, but a new breed of terrorists emerges and, although there are no boots on the ground, “[a]fter a strike, one can expect anything.” Our new terrorists are rebels without a cause who are accepted by Isil, as though flesh alone a terrorist made.

Dante's Inferno, Plate 22 Hoarders and Wasters, Gustave Doré

Dante’s Inferno, Plate 22
Hoarders and Wasters,
Gustave Doré

“We don’t have a strategy yet”

Second, the President said: “We don’t have a strategy yet.” I watched CNN and happened to hear high-ranking military personnel comment on President Obama’s so-called “gaffe.” They explained that devising a strategy can take a very long time, but also said that the U.S. is prepared to face attackers. After the horrific attacks of 9/11, the U.S. has got tougher. In short, the Pentagon is ready.

However, because of its current debt, the U.S. cannot afford to spend $7.5 m a day on its operation in the Middle East. There have been 100 strikes and the Republicans in Congress would like the United States to adopt a more “aggressive strategy.”

“Republicans in Congress have led calls for a more aggressive strategy against Isis, beyond the strikes which the Obama administration has confined to the north of Iraq, around the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil and the Mosul dam.” (The Guardian)

Suing the President

Given that Mr Boehner, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, is suing the President, can advice on his part or on the part of extremist Republicans in Congress be taken seriously. The lawsuit will cost taxpayers $500 an hour. Barack Obama is the duly elected President of the United States of America. That does not confer upon him “divine rights,”[i] but it has earned him a degree of respect that he also fully deserves. Suing the President has seriously jeopardized Mr. Boehner’s credibility as well as the credibility of like-minded members of the Republican Party. Mr. Boehner has provided little, if any, evidence that he is a statesman.

I realize that the U.S. is not acting as a single nation and I am aware that agencies dropping food, water and other supplies to a beleaguered people require protection. However, if the conflict escalates I fully expect Mr. Boehner to blame the President. Moreover, if the U.S. adopts a more aggressive strategy, more money will be spent and the Republicans in Congress will also blame President Obama.

London Counts on Safe-Haven Appeal…

If matters degenerate, there may be a few happy individuals, people such as CIT in London, England. They are building or have built a perfect safe-haven for the very rich who may need to escape turmoil.

Given the amount of money these refugees are willing to pay and can pay for a safe-haven, not only are London “developers” hoping to rescue enormously wealthy customers from the Middle East, but apartments have already been sold to wealthy customers in Vancouver and Toronto at prices only royalty can pay. Besides, two save-havens are better than one.

Releasing the Prisoners

I would like the prisoners Isis has captured to be released and for all endangered Americans or foreigners to be pulled out of inferno as soon as possible, if it is possible. However, Isil terrorists are asking for exorbitant ransoms the United States will not pay.

Strikes are very dangerous and one cannot defeat sectarianism. Inferno!

My kindest regards to all of you.



[i] “divine right of kings.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 31 Aug. 2014.<>.


GF Händel (23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759)
Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia
Suite No. 9 in G Minor
Sviatoslav Richter (20 March 1915 – 1 August 1997)
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement from Martha's Vineyard
© Micheline Walker
August 31, 2014

James Foley: Tragic Events


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 James Foley.s Murder: the Real Issues

James Foley (Photo credit: Reuters)

James Foley

Tragic events have kept me away from my computer for several days. American journalist James Foley was beheaded in cold blood by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a terrorist organisation masquerading as a nation. It appears ISIS is now preparing to murder Steven Sotloff.

I agree with Pope Francis that “it should not be up to a single nation to decide how to intervene in the conflict.” The following is the Pope’s complete statement:

“18 August: Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, said that the international community would be justified in stopping Islamist militants in Iraq. He also said that it should not be up to a single nation to decide how to intervene in the conflict.” (See Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia.)

The killer, or one of the killers, has a British accent. It appears he is a Londoner. David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is therefore taking matters very seriously. It seems the alleged executioner, or one of the alleged executioners, has been identified, but revealing his identity before he is in custody would be a breach of security.

Mr. Foley’s killer(s) will be brought to justice. I should note that since Barack Obama became President of the United States, the United States has seldom had better allies.

I hope that no single nation retaliate. Terrorism is not a nation. It could be the terrorists might enjoy generating a war. The US and its allies have élite commandos they can deploy. That’s how Bin Laden was found and killed. The terrorists must, of course, release the journalists they have captured.

Michael Brown

Also tragic and disturbing is the shooting death of 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. The matter is still under investigation, which prevents conclusive statements. (See Shooting of Michael Brown, Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia.)

Racism, if it was racism, can be curbed considerably through proper education. We underestimate the role of good teachers in this regard.

I extend my condolences to James Foley’s family and friends and wish to tell them how sorry I am for their loss. Nothing is more painful than the death of a child, whatever his or her age.

I also extend my sincere condolences to Michael Brown’s family and friends.

My kindest regards to all of you.


— La Guirlande de Julie (Photo credit: BnF)

Marc-André Hamelin plays Mozart

President Obama
President Obama (Reuters)
© Micheline Walker
August 28, 2014

Ginette Neveu: the Exceptionally Gifted


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Ginette Neveu

Ginette Neveu (Photo credit: Google images)

In an earlier post on Barbier’s Fêtes galantes, I noted that virtuoso violinist Ginette Neveu (11 August 1919 – 28 October 1949) was a victim of the Air France Lockheed Constellation crash of 28 October 1949, in the Azores. The crash also claimed the life of 68 year-old illustrator and designer Bernard Boutet de Monvel, of the Monvel dynasty, as well as that of 33 year-old world champion boxer Marcel Cerdan, Édith Piaf‘s lover. Also killed on the island of São Miguel was classical pianist Jean Neveu, Ginette’s brother and accompanist. The Neveu family must have been devastated.

Ginette: a child prodigy

Ginette Neveu was 7 when she started giving public performances. By that age, she had mastered Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto (Op. 64). In 1935, shortly after she turned 16, Ginette’s teacher entered her in the Wieniawsky Competition in Warsaw and she won over David Oistrakh (30 September 1908 – 24 October 1974) who was then 27 and an acclaimed violinist. It is difficult to say that Mr. Oistrakh lost to Ginette Neveu. There were 180 contestants and he came second. But more importantly Ginette was a child prodigy, so it is as though she belonged to a different category.

It does not happen very often, only a few times in a century, and sometimes in a millennium, but, occasionally, an exceptionally gifted individual is born who cannot be surpassed in his or her category and in his days. Only Beethoven could compose the Ninth Symphony and no one has equalled Mozart’s Requiem, K (Köchel) 626.

Not that we are about to run out of talents. Over the years, there have been hundreds of great composers, artists, performers, comedians, scientists, writers, architects, athletes, inventors, and very good human beings. Yet certain individuals are unlikely to be surpassed. Steve Jobs was one such individual, and so was Ginette Neveu.

It seems, however, that the greater the talent, the more fragile and vulnerable the writer, the composer, the performer, the artist, the scientist and my “good” human being…  Fate took Ginette Neveu away from us at a very early age and, on 11 August 2014, we lost Robin Williams. In his category and in his days, I don’t think Mr. Williams could be surpassed, no more than Charlie Chaplin, in his category and in his days. Moreover, Robin Williams was a good human being. He will be missed.

At any rate, I have inserted, once again, Ginette Neveu’s interpretation of Maurice Ravel‘s Tzigane. It is remarkable.

My kindest regards to all of you.

P. S. I am trying to configure my webpage. I have been posting articles for three years and have yet to learn how to insert a picture in my sidebar. In other words, I am not a very gifted individual.

Sensitiva, Miquel  Blay

Sensitiva, Miquel Blay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





Ginette Neveu plays Ravel’s Tzigane

Hendrickje Sleeping, Rembrandt Photo credit: Wikipaintings
Hendrickje Sleeping, Rembrandt, drawing (Photo credit:
© Micheline Walker
21 August 2014 

Leo Rauth: Images


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La Belle Otéro, Leo Rauth, 1910

La Belle Otéro, Leo Rauth, 1910


Ruth St. Denis, Schlangentanz, Leo Rauth

All I can send you today are these images by Leo Rauth (1884 – 1913). They feature dancers one of whom is American modern dance “pioneer” (Wikipedia), Ruth St. Denis  (20 January 1879 – 21 July 1968), shown above performing a “snake dance,” without the snake. They also feature la Belle Otéro (4 November 1868 – 12 April 1965).  (Wikipedia)

Leo Rauth also designed rather “poetical” clothes.

I found a lovely piece of music by Oswin Haas.





Fashion Design, Leo Rauth (Photo credit: Google images)

This may be one of my shortest posts, but I wanted to show more artworks by Rauth, who did a number of pochoirs. But more importantly, I wanted to keep in touch and send everyone my best regards.

 La Valse contente (The Happy Waltz)
“Piano Album With A Smile 2″: original easy to medium pieces from Oswin Haas.


© Micheline Walker
August 18, 2014

Illustrating Fashion Magazines: Barbier & Colleagues


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Vogue, its first issue, 17 December 1892 (Wikipedia) or its May 1917 issue, as the cover indicates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vogue, its first issue, 17 December 1892, and its May 1917 cover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Content & Style

George Barbier
La Gazette du Bon Ton
Content as Style

In my last post, I stated that Leo Rauth (Wikipedia, in German) differed from George Barbier in that Barbier concentrated on fashion. In this regard, I was both right and wrong. Barbier’s illustrations were a gift to the fashion and publishing industries. However, in the artwork Barbier contributed to La Gazette du Bon Ton and other fashion magazines, he let fantasy guide him as did many other illustrators.[I] The same could be said about the designers.[II] Fantasy seems our keyword.

Moreover, it could well be that Rauth’s commedia dell’arte characters resemble Barbier commedia dell’arte characters because the subject matter tends to dictate style. In Barbier’s Fêtes galantes, the stock characters of the commedia dell’arte are depicted in Antoine Watteau‘s “galant” style, perhaps not to the same extent as Rauth’s commedia dell’arte‘s characters, but in a “galant” style nevertheless.

The term “galant” is associated with music composed in the eighteenth century but, interestingly, Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes would be an inspiration to late nineteenth-century French composers, Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) and Gabriel Fauré in particular. The decadent “fin de siècle” was also called “la Belle Époque.

During the first years of the twentieth century, there occurred a merging of the arts prompted in part by Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes.

The Ballets Russes

We looked at Barbier’s illustrations of Paul Verlaine‘s Fêtes galantes, but as you know from earlier posts, published in 2012, Barbier also chose the Ballets Russes as one of his subjects. He portrayed not only Nijinsky, but also Russian prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina (10 March 1885 – 26 May 1978) during the years she worked for the Ballets Russes. Nikinsky, however, was its star.

In the work featured directly below, there are elements of Art Deco. The torchère is an Art Deco prop, avant la lettre. However, Barbier’s Vaslav Nijinsky flying in mid-air seems to me to be Barbier’s Vaslav Nijinsky flying in mid-air (Shéhérazade [Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov], 1910).

Art Deco is associated with the twenties, les Années folles, the Golden Twenties, but art movements overlap.

Tamara Karsaniva, George Barbier

Tamara Karsavina as Salomé, George Barbier

(Please click on the images to enlarge them.)

Nijinsky in Schéhérazade, 1910, George Barbier

Nijinsky in Schéhérazade, 1910, George Barbier (Photo credit: Google images)

Fashion Magazines and haute couture illustrators

La Gazette du Bon Ton (France)
La Gazette du Bon Genre (New York)
Vogue, etc.
Lucien Vogel
Condé Nast 

A subscription to La Gazette du Bon Ton cost a fortune. It targeted the rich; wealthy New Yorkers in particular. The articles contained in both Gazettes were written impeccably, the publishers used good quality paper, and subscribers indulged their fantasies. Other fashion magazines were more affordable, so women dreamed, as did men. As noted in Wikipedia’s entry on Vogue magazine, the magazine sold profusely during the Great Depression:

“The magazine’s number of subscriptions surged during the Great Depression, and again during World War II.”

I should think that never had the superfluous been so essential than during these troubled times: fantasy! (See Vogue magazine, Wikipedia.) Men also wished to wear designer clothes. As I noted in my last post, Bernard Boutet de Monvel was a dandy. Certain clothes were not very practical. For instance, few women would wear clothes like Beer’s beach dress (robe de plage; Pierre Brissaud), shown below. But mothers sewed little sailor suits for their children.

Rentrons Robe de plage de chez Beer

Rentrons (Let’s go home)
Robe de plage de Beer, Pierre Brissaud, 1920 (Photo credit: Google images)

La Gazette du Bon Ton: 1912 – 1925

La Gazette du Bon Ton was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and Michel de Brunhoff  who later became the editor of Vogue Paris from 1929 to 1954. Lucien Vogel married Michel de Brunhoff’s sister Cosette. Their brother, Jean de Brunhoof and his wife Cécile, created Babar the Elephant. Jean de Brunhoof died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-seven, but his son, Laurent de Brunhoof, continued his father’s work.

I will end this post with a display of the illustrations executed by several artists who, at times, were also designers. Such is the case with Bernard Boutet de Monvel and his two cousins, Barbier and Brissaud. But I will also show the work of other illustrators, Georges Lepage, who worked for the French Gazette du Bon Ton, and American illustrator Helen Dryden, whose art is superb. These artists also contributed artwork to other magazines on both sides of the Atlantic: Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Femina, Vogue and Les Feuillets d’artCondé Nast owned the American Gazette du Bon Genre, examples of which can be read online. Click on: Gazette du Bon Genre.

Miniature ancienne, Bernard B. de Monvel

Miniature ancienne, Bernard B. de Monvel, 1913

(George Barbier & Paul Iribe) 

Bernard Boutet de Monvel, 1914

Le Matin, Place Vendôme, Bernard Boutet de Monvel, 1914

Costumes Parisiens, Pour Stl Moritz George Barbier

 (George Barbier, above and below)

(moineaux are sparrows)

Helen Dryden, May, 1921

Helen Dryden, May 1921


Le Jeu des Grâces, George Barbier

Le Jeu des Grâces,* George Barbier

* The Game of Graces

(Photo credit: L’Illustration, No. 3671, 5 Juillet 1913 [EBook #36357] (above and below)

Robes neuves, Georges Lepage

Robes neuves (New Dresses), Georges Lepage

Les Chiens suivent aussi la mode, Bernard B. de Monvel

Les Chiens suivent aussi la mode,* Bernard Boutet de Monvel

* Dogs also follow fashion.


Sources and Resources


I feel I’ve travelled to another world. A world to which I do not belong. However, discussing Barbier and his colleagues does provide examples of the acceptability of the decorative arts, interior design, haute couture, posters. Design is everywhere, from dishes to arranging food on a plate.

Note the influence of japonisme: flat colours and diagonal lines. Barbier’s Pour St. Moritz, is an example of japonisme. We are also looking at creative minds working together and constituting a network. Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes were a beehive and a gathering place that attracted illustrators and designers. Living in such a milieu must have been very stimulating.

Where fashion is concerned, I did not mention Coco Chanel who triggered a revolution. Many women still dress à la Coco Chanel: elegance, but simplicity and comfort.

I must close.


My best regards to all of you.


[I] Illustrators associated with La Gazette du Bon Ton were George Barbier, Erté (Romain de Tirtoff), Paul Iribe, Pierre Brissaud, André Edouard Marty, Thayaht (Ernesto Michahelles), Georges Lepape, Edouard Garcia Benito, Sœurs David (David Sisters), Pierre Mourgue, Robert Bonfils, Bernard Boutet de Monvel, Maurice LeroyZyg Brunner, and others. These illustrators also worked for other fashion magazines.
[ii] Designers associated with La Gazette du Bon Ton were, to begin with, Louise Chéruit, Georges Dœuillet, Jacques Doucet, Jeanne Paquin, Paul Poiret, Redfern & Sons, and, after World War I, La Gazette du Bon Ton also showed Charles Worth. Étienne Drian, Gustav Beer, Kriegck, Larsen, Martial & Armand, and others. (see La Gazette du Bon Ton, Wikipedia.) 
Masques et Bergamasques, Gabriel Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924)
Bonnet de voyage, Georges Lepage

Bonnet de voyage, Georges Lepage

© Micheline Walker
August 16, 2014 

George Barbier’s Fêtes galantes


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George Barbier

Cover, George Barbier (Photo credit: Google images, all)

Pierrot et Arlequin, George Barbier

Pierrot and Harlequin, George Barbier

Art Deco

Jean-Gaspard Deburau
Charles Deburau (Jean-Gaspard’s son)
Jean-Louis Barrault
Pantomine and Mine
Les Enfants du Paradis 

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on “Leo Rauth’s fin de siècle Pierrot.” Leo Rauth died too young and under tragic circumstances. However, although Rauth‘s artwork predates George Barbier‘s (1882–1932), who is considered an Art Deco artist, both artists depicted commedia dell’arte stock characters: Pedrolino, or Pierrot formerly known as Gilles, and Harlequin (Arlecchino and Arlequin) and did so in “galant” fashion following in the footsteps of Jean-Antoine Watteau (10 October 1684 – 18 July 1721).

Pierrot is a major figure in France. He appears in the art of Antoine Watteau, a student of Claude Gillot (both eighteenth-century artists, middle and late). Pierrot then grows into Jean-Gaspard Deburau‘s Battiste, a role Charles Deburau, Jean-Gaspard’s son, inherited. Pierrot had entered the world of pantomime and mime.

These one-man performances were replacing entertainment by the large troupes of the commedia dell’arte and the Comédie-ItaliennePierrot’s apotheosis is Baptiste, a role played by Jean-Louis Barrault in Les Enfants du Paradis, Paradise being distant and inexpensive seats or benches. Les Enfants du Paradis is a legendary film directed by Marcel Carné who used a text by Jacques Prévert.

Barbier as Fashion Illustrator

George Barbier: illustrator 
“pochoirs” (stenciling)

However, Leo Rauth differs from George Barbier. First, Barbier is considered an Art Deco artist. Second, he was a fashion illustrator at a time when haute couture was developing rapidly and the publishing industry sensed an opportunity it quickly seized. Moreover, japonismewoodblock printing, would prove the technique of artists who needed copies of their work: posters, illustration. Printmaking was not new to the western world. François Chauveau engraved the Carte de Tendre.

As you know, the fine arts diversified in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century due, to a large extent, to japonisme. Japanese prints flooded  Europe, France and England particularly. They were plentiful and therefore an inexpensive yet beautiful artwork. Illustrators needed such a tool.

Barbier, used pochoirs (stenciling)[I] that enabled him to make replicas of his designs, but many artists chose various forms of engraving. They made etchings (on copper usually), woodcuts (wood), linocuts (linoleum) or some other material.

Engraving is referred to as an intaglio technique. For instance, etchers trace their drawing into a “ground” applied to metal, they use acid to bite into the drawing. They then insert ink that flows into the engraved (etched) parts of the metal and, when pressed onto paper, only the engraved or etched parts of the pieces of metal, the image, will show on the paper. Artists and designers can also make reproductions of their work using lithography, silkscreens (stenciling) and pochoirs (also stenciling).

Chansons de France pour les petits enfants

Chansons de France pour les petits enfants, Maurice B. de Monvel

The Boutet de Monvel Dynasty

Maurice Boutet de Monvel
his son: Bernard Boutet de Monvel
his nephews: George Barbier and Pierre Brissaud

George Barbier

George Barbier belonged to a dynasty. He was the nephew of Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1851– 1913) to whom we owe the Chansons de France pour les petits enfants, Jeanne d’Arc (online), illustrations of 22 Fables by Jean de La Fontaine  (online; see Sources and Resources).

Barbier was also a first cousin to, Bernard Boutet de Monvel, Maurice’s son as well as a first cousin to Maurice’s other nephew, Pierre Brissaud. All three were occasional designers and/or illustrators, or exclusively illustrators and designers.

Among a growing number of fashion magazines, the three cousins and numerous colleagues provided illustrations to La Gazette du Bon Ton, which was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and was distributed by Condé Nast. Its American counterpart was La Gazette du Bon Genre, an Internet Archive publication (See Sources and Resources).

Barbier also designed theatre and ballet costumes. In fact, he helped Erté, Romain de Tirtoff (23 November 1892 – 21 April 1990) design sets and costumes for the Folies Bergère. In French “R” is pronounced er and “T,” té = Erté. In fact, Barbier led a group nicknamed “The Knights of the Bracelet,” by Vogue.

The Plane Crash: 28 October 1949

Bernard was also an interior designer, a portraitist, and the last of the Paris dandies, a work of art in himself. He died as he lived, conspicuously. Bernard B. de Monvel was killed in the Air France Lockheed Constellation crash of 28 October 1949, in the Azores. Among the forty-eight victims were world-champion boxer Marcel Cerdan  (aged 33), Edith Piaf‘s lover, and virtuoso violinist Ginette Neveu (aged 30). Benard B. de Monvel was 68.


As I was going through my neglected email, I found an advertisement for this pochoir.

art deco table

“Original pochoir by Bagge Huguet from La Gazette du Bon Ton, a leading Art Deco revue in Paris in the 1920s, showcasing the latest fashion and design. The Art Deco period was a highpoint in French art. Leading artists included Georges Lepape, Georges [sic] Barbier, Edouard Garcia Benito, Erté, and others.”

But let us look at Barbier’s reading of Fêtes galantesLes Années folles, or the Golden Twenties, were a reborn fête galante, à la Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby (1925) that dictated a degree of resemblance between Rauth and Barbier. However, people danced the Charleston, not the sensual tango a product of the 1890s.


Sources and Resources

The Gallery

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin, George Barbier (Photo credit: Tumbler)

 (Please click on the small images to enlarge them.)

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin, George Barbier

Brighella & Pierrot, George Barbier

Brighella & Pierrot, George Barbier



[I] “stenciling.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 12 Aug. 2014. <>.

Ginette Neveu plays Maurice Ravel‘s Tzigane

by-barbier-georges-sketch-proposal-for-the-ballet-carnival-russian-ballets-of-diaghilev-theatre-company© Micheline Walker 
August 12, 2014

Mme de Sévigné on Vatel’s Death


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Lettres de Madame de Sévigné (book cover)

Lettres de Mme de Sévigné

The above image is a book cover of an edition of Mme de Sévigné’s Letters. (Photo credit: Google images)

Born Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the Marquise de Sévigné‘s (5 February 1626 – 17 April 1696) wrote a considerable number of letters to her daughter Françoise, comtesse de Grignan (1646 – 1705). These letters now belong to the world of literature and they constitute a vivid chronicle of life under Louis XIV. One of Madame de Sévigné’s letters is about François Vatel (born Fritz Karl Watel; 1631 – 24 April 1671), a famous majordomo or maître d’hôtel. 

François Vatel at Vaux-le-Vicomte

François Vatel‘s (1631 – April 24, 1671) story takes us back to Vaux-le Vicomte, Nicolas Fouquet‘s castle. In an earlier article, posted on 20 August 2013 (see Related Article), Nicolas Fouquet’s rise and fall was discussed. Fouquet had been France’s Superintendent of Finances since 1653 and had a magnificent castle built. It’s inauguration took place on 17 August 1661.

As majordomo or maître d’hôtel, François Vatel was responsible for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s splendid inauguration, a festivity in honour of Louis XIV. That celebration is one of the two or three most spectacular festivities in the history of France and it has remained fresh in our memory because the day Nicolas Fouquet was host to some 2,000 guests, the culmination of a dream, was the first day of his demise. He did not know he was under any kind of suspicion. However his fall from grace was planned beginning in April 1661.

No, this was not une fête galante, nor was it une fête champêtre. People visited the gardens and the orangerie, but a fête champêtre was a more intimate event. Nicolas Fouquet (27 January 1615 – 23 March 1680), Louis XIV’s Superintendent of Finances, had invited 2,000 guests, including the 22-year-old Louis XIV. Molière‘s troupe performed Les Fâcheux and there were divertissements (entertainment) of all kinds, including magnificent fireworks. The inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte is considered one of the three or four most sumptuous celebrations in the history of France, but it was a public event and Vatel proved an excellent maître d’hôtel.


Vaux-le-Vicomte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nicolas Fouquet (1615-1680)

Compared to Louis XIV‘s (5 September 1638 – 1 September 1715), Louvre Palace, the royal residence, Vaux-le-Vicomte was perfection itself and it featured an orangerie built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart  (16 April 1646 – 11 May 1708), later comte de Sagonne (1699).

The splendour of Vaux-le-Vicomte intrigued the young king. Could it be, for instance, that Nicolas Fouquet, who was the king’s Superintendent of Finances, had embezzled money? Jules Mazarin (14 July 1602 – 9 March 1661), who had been the “chief minister” of France from 1642 until 1661, had no doubt embezzled funds. As well, Fouquet expected to be Minister of Finance, but so did Colbert. There was opposition to Fouquet (also spelled Foucquet).

Be that as it may, Louis XIV had Fouquet arrested by d’Artagnan, whom Alexandre Dumas, père transformed into a fictional hero in The Three Musketeers (serialized as of 1844). Fouquet was tried, convicted and imprisoned for life at Pignerol, in the very jail that held the prisoner known as “the man in the iron mask.”

Fouquet had been a generous patron of the arts. Consequently, fabulist Jean de La Fontaine (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695) a protégé of Fouquet, pleaded for leniency. He wrote to Louis XIV, but although La Fontaine was a superb writer, second only to Victor Hugo in the history of French literature, and recognized as a great author in his own days, he was not appointed to the French Académie, founded in 1635, until 1684. That was his punishment. La Fontaine’s first volume of Fables was published in 1668 (twelve books). The second was published in 1678 (eleven books) and the third, one book, in 1694.

Versailles: Louis copies Nicolas Fouquet

Louis XIV (5 September 1638 – 1 September 1715) was pitiless. When Nicolas Fouquet started serving his life sentence, Louis was busy recruiting the men who had designed Vaux-le-Vicomte: Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun, and landscape architect André Le Nôtre. Moreover, architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, who had built a superb orangerie at Vaux-le-Vicomte, was directed to provide Versailles with an even better one.

As for Antoine Vatel, when Fouquet was arrested, he became le Grand Condé‘s (Louis de Bourbon, duc de Condé; 8 September 1621 – 11 December 1686) majordomo, or maître d’hôtel, at the Château de Chantilly (but chantilly cream is not Vatel’s creation).

Les Plaisirs de l’Isle enchantée

Louis was quite anxious to host as magnificent a feast as the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte and attempted to do so in 1664. This seems an early date in the construction of Versailles. Louis XIV’s Les Plaisirs de l’Isle enchantée was a six-day feast. Its title suggests a fairy tale: l’Isle enchantée. It was lavish entertainment. Molière, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622 – 1673), contributed his first version of Le Tartuffe to the event.[I] Moreover, Molière worked with composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687) because the divertissement would include music and dance. Louis XIV was a dancer. Louis’ Plaisirs de l’Isle enchantée was a lesser fête than Nicolas Fouquet’s inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly (Photo credit: Google images)

François Vatel at Chantilly

Madame de Sévigné’s account of François Vatel’s suicide is eloquent, but mine is a mere summary. However, this one story tells in a nutshell about life under Louis XIV. It was a constant ceremonial. Vatel did not feel he could disappoint Louis XIV. Nor could he disappoint le Grand Condé, a military hero, a prince of the blood, i.e. a possible heir to the thrown of France, and his employer.

For the original text, in French, go to Chapter 47, p. 121, online. (Lettres de Mme de Sévigné; Gutenberg project [EBook 43901]FR). But there is an English translation at Internet ArchivesLetters of Mme de Sévigné, 45 & 46. I did not find the translation soon enough. The Internet Archives‘ English translation has been appended to this post and so has the French-language text.

Lettre à Françoise de Grignan, 26 April 1771

This is an incomplete excerpt from Chapter 47, p. 121, of Mme de Sévigné’s Lettres (Lettres de Mme de Sévigné: [EBook 43901]FR). The Prince is le Grand Condé: Louis II de Bourbon, Duc de Condé et d’Enghien, the highest ranking aristocrat after Louis XIV. At first, he was feared by Louis XIV because of his involvement in the Fronde(literally a sling). The Fronde was a seventeenth-century revolt (c. 1648-1652) against the increased power of a growingly centralized government that nearly excluded the participation of the higher nobility, including princes of the blood, in governing France. The people also revolted. There were two Frondes.

My abridged excerpt

Vatel said he hadn’t slept for twelve nights and that his head was turning around. There had not been enough roast and now only two loads of fish (or “fruits de mer,” [seafood]) had been delivered. Vatel, who performed his duties most diligently, was very distraught…

“…They had dinner, but there wasn’t enough roast. Vatel felt he had disgraced himself… Gourville [probably Jean Hérault de Gourville, a memorialist] went to see the prince [Condé]. …The prince walked to Vatel’s room and said: “All is well; nothing was more beautiful than the King’s supper.” Vatel answered: “Your Highness, your kindness overwhelms me. I know that roast was missing at two tables.” “Don’t get angry: all is going well,” said the prince, somewhat mockingly.

At midnight, time came for the fireworks. The display was not successful. A cloud blinded the sight; it had cost 16,000 francs! At four in the morning, Vatel started wandering everywhere. Everybody was asleep. He met a young purveyor bringing in two loads of fish [or seafood]. Vatel asked: “Is that all?” The purveyor did not know Vatel had ordered fish from every port. Vatel waited, but other purveyors were not coming …  Vatel’s head was getting hot: he thought there would be no more tides. He found Gourville and told him: “Sir I will not survive this affront.” Gourville made fun of him. Vatel went up to his room, attached his sword to a door and ran it through his body three times before he died, which is the very moment the fish started arriving. Everyone was looking for Vatel so the fish could be distributed. They went to his room, knocked on the door and then forced it open, only to find Vatel drowning in his own blood. They ran to the prince who was desperate. The duke [Condé] wept. The success of his trip to Burgundy depended on Vatel. The prince told the king sadly that this had happened because of Vatel’s idea of honour. Vatel was praised, but his courage was blamed.” 

Louis XIV went on to say that he had waited five years before travelling to Chantilly. He was afraid there would be too much of a fuss. From then on, tables were to be limited to two, not twenty-five. But, alas, this new policy could not revive Vatel. Two thousand guests were in attendance.

This story is an exceptional example of irony, at every level, and from every angle. It is a devastating testimonial. Vatel’s death did not affect the celebration. It continued as though nothing had happened. Yet, a good man had died who had every reason to fear the king and the duke. Fouquet was serving a life sentence and lawyers are still investigating the case. For a while, Fouquet’s manservant at Pignerol, now located in Italy, was “the man in the iron mask,” except that, in all likelihood, he was wearing a velvet mask. The man has a name, Eustache Dauger, but he has yet to be identified. These were fearful days.

My kindest regards to all of you.



Sources and Resources


[I] Molière had contributed his three-act comédie-ballet, Les Fâcheux, to Fouquet’s Fête.

The music is by Michel Richard Delalande (15 December 1657 – 18 June 1726)

© Micheline Walker
August 7, 2014


Internet Archives translation

Supper was served, but there was no roast meat at one or two of the tables, on account of Vatel’s having been obliged to provide several dinners more


than were expected. This affected his spirits, and he was heard to say, several times: “I have lost my honor! I can not bear this disgrace.” My head is quite bewildered,” said he to Gourville.” I have not had a wink of sleep these twelve nights; I wish you would assist me in giving orders.” Gourville did all he could to coinfort [sic] and assist him; but the failure of the roast meat (which, however, did not happen at the king’s table, but at some of the other twenty-five), was always uppermost with him. Gourville mentioned it to the prince, who went directly to Vatel’s apartment, and said to him: “Every thing is extremely well conducted, Vatel; nothing could be more admirable than his majesty’s supper.” “Your highness’s goodness,” replied he, “overwhelms me;  I am sensible that there was a deficiency of roast meat at two tables.” “Not at all,” said the prince; “do not perplex yourself, and all will go well.” Midnight came: the fireworks did not succeed, they were covered with a thick cloud; they cost sixteen thousand francs. At four o’clock in the morning Vatel went round and found every body asleep; he met one of the under-purveyors, who was just come in with only two loads of fish.” “What!” said he, “is this all?” “Yes, sir,” said the man, not knowing that Vatel had dispatched other people to all the sea-ports around. Vatel waited for some time; the other purveyors did not arrive; his head grew distracted; he thought there was no more fish to be had. He flew to Gourville: “Sir,” said he, “I can not outlive this disgrace.” Gourville laughed at him. Vatel, however, went to his apartment, and setting the hilt of his sword against the door, after two ineffectual attempts, succeeded in the third, in forcing his sword through his heart.
At that instant the carriers arrived with the fish; Vatel was inquired after to distribute it. They ran to his apartment, knocked at the door, but received no answer, upon which they broke it open, and found him weltering in his blood. A messenger was immediately dispatched to acquaint the prince with what had happened, who was like a man in de-


spair. The duke wept, for his Burgundy journey depended upon Vatel. The prince related the whole affair to his majesty with an expression of great concern; it was considered as the consequence of too nice a sense of honor; some blamed, others praised him for his courage. The king said he had put off this excursion for more than five years, because he was aware that it would be attended with infinite trouble, and told the prince that he ought to have had but two tables, and not have been at the expense of so many, and declared he would never suffer him to do so again; but all this was too late for poor Vatel.

The Original Letter

A Paris, dimanche 26 avril 1671.
Il est dimanche 26 avril; cette lettre ne partira que mercredi; mais ce n’est pas une lettre, c’est une relation que Moreuil vient de me faire, à votre intention, de ce qui s’est passé à Chantilly touchant Vatel. Je vous écrivis vendredi qu’il s’était poignardé; voici l’affaire en détail: Le roi arriva le jeudi au soir; la promenade, la collation dans un lieu tapissé de jonquilles, tout cela fut à souhait. On soupa, il y eut quelques tables où le rôti manqua, à cause de plusieurs dîners à quoi l’on ne s’était point attendu; cela saisit Vatel, il dit plusieurs fois: Je suis perdu d’honneur; voici un affront que je ne supporterai pas. Il dit à Gourville: La tête me tourne, il y a douze nuits que je n’ai dormi; aidez-moi à donner 121 des ordres. Gourville le soulagea en ce qu’il put. Le rôti qui avait manqué, non pas à la table du roi, mais aux vingt-cinquièmes, lui revenait toujours à l’esprit. Gourville le dit à M. le Prince. M. le Prince alla jusque dans la chambre de Vatel, et lui dit: «Vatel, tout va bien; rien n’était si beau que le souper du roi.» Il répondit: «Monseigneur, votre bonté m’achève; je sais que le rôti a manqué à deux tables.» «Point du tout, dit M. le Prince; ne vous fâchez point: tout va bien.» Minuit vint, le feu d’artifice ne réussit pas, il fut couvert d’un nuage; il coûtait seize mille francs. A quatre heures du matin, Vatel s’en va partout, il trouve tout endormi, il rencontre un petit pourvoyeur qui lui apportait seulement deux charges de marée; il lui demande: Est-ce là tout? Oui, monsieur. Il ne savait pas que Vatel avait envoyé à tous les ports de mer. Vatel attend quelque temps; les autres pourvoyeurs ne vinrent point; sa tête s’échauffait, il crut qu’il n’aurait point d’autre marée; il trouva Gourville, il lui dit: Monsieur, je ne survivrai point à cet affront-ci. Gourville se moqua de lui. Vatel monte à sa chambre, met son épée contre la porte, et se la passe au travers du cœur; mais ce ne fut qu’au troisième coup, car il s’en donna deux qui n’étaient point mortels; il tombe mort. La marée cependant arrive de tous côtés: on cherche Vatel pour la distribuer, on va à sa chambre, on heurte, on enfonce la porte, on le trouve noyé dans son sang; on court à M. le Prince, qui fut au désespoir. M. le Duc pleura; c’était sur Vatel que tournait tout son voyage de Bourgogne. M. le Prince le dit au roi fort tristement: on dit que c’était à force d’avoir de l’honneur à sa manière; on le loua fort, on loua et l’on blâma son courage. Le roi dit qu’il y avait cinq ans qu’il retardait de venir à Chantilly, parce qu’il comprenait l’excès de cet embarras. Il dit à M. le Prince qu’il ne devait avoir que deux tables, et ne point se charger de tout; il jura qu’il ne souffrirait plus que M. le Prince en usât ainsi; mais c’était trop tard pour le pauvre Vatel. Cependant Gourville tâcha de réparer la perte de Vatel; elle fut réparée: on dîna très-bien, on fit collation, on soupa, on se promena, on joua, on fut à la chasse; tout était parfumé de jonquilles, tout était enchanté. Hier, qui était samedi, on fit encore de même; et le soir, le roi alla à Liancourt, où il avait commandé media noche; il y doit 122 demeurer aujourd’hui. Voilà ce que Moreuil m’a dit, espérant que je vous le manderais. Je jette mon bonnet par-dessus les moulins, et je ne sais rien du reste. M. d’Hacqueville, qui était à tout cela, vous fera des relations sans doute; mais comme son écriture n’est pas si lisible que la mienne, j’écris toujours; et si je vous mande cette infinité de détails, c’est que je les aimerais en pareille occasion.


Suing President Obama: Related Posts


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Branch of Lilacs, by Henri Matisse, 1914

Branch of Lilacs, by Henri Matisse, 1914 (Photo credit:

My sincere apologies to anyone who found my last post offensive.

My post was not offensive, nor was it subversive. However, this new event invites serious reflection on a number of issues. Among these, the numerous attacks on the President of the United States. These point to behaviour that cannot be considered reasonable and acceptable. There are rules of conduct that preclude harassment.

I hope sincerely President Obama did not abuse the power he is vested in him. I doubt that he has. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States’ military, but he is not belligerent.

My post entitled “Suing President Obama” contained a list of related articles. This list disappeared. My computer is no longer stable. It sometimes erases part of what I have written. I think I need a birthday.


Suite bergamasque, four-movement suite for piano by French composer Claude Debussy, begun in 1890, when the composer was a student, and revised and published in 1905. Its most readily recognizable segment is the third movement, the ever-popular Clair de lune (“Moonlight”).

The work’s title derives from Bergamo, a city with ancient origins that is located in the foothills of the Italian Alps. It is traditionally considered the home of Harlequin, a standard figure of the commedia dell’arte. The first movement, Prélude, has open and flowing phrases with much use of legato phrases. The second movement, Menuet, and the fourth movement, Passepied, are quick and light-footed, more staccato in mood than the first. The gentle and familiar Clair de lune in its original context provides an elegant contrast to the sprightly second and fourth movements.”

My kindest regards to all of you.


[I] “Suite bergamasque.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 04 Aug. 2014. <>.

Pascal's Pensées, Henri Matisse

Pascal’s Pensées, Henri Matisse, 1924 (

Debussy‘s “Clair de lune” (Suite bergamasque)
Angela Hewitt
Angela Hewitt performs a live concert for the Royal Conservatory of Music at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.




© Micheline Walker
November 4, 2014
Henri Matisse, 1917
(Photo credit:






Suing President Obama!


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Could it be about the Affordable Care Act?

Allow me to express profound dismay regarding Mr. Boehner’s continued assaults on President Obama. Mr. Boehner has made it very clear that he opposes the Affordable Care Act and his position regarding affordable health care has coloured his behaviour for a long time. He has also opposed President Obama’s humanitarian policies, such as extending the period during which an unemployed American may receive help from the government of his country. And now, Libya!

The Government Shutdown: October 2013

I remember vividly Mr. Boehner holding the citizens of the United States hostage by directing Congress to oppose raising the United States’ debt ceiling, which, of course, had to be raised. That was very silly and no one will forget. The Government shutdown of October 2013 cost the American people billions of dollars, billions that were needed to ensure the health and security of the American people, to refurbish schools, or help the nation in some other way. Was that responsible behaviour on the part of an elected official? It was a game, and not only did it impoverish Americans, but it also scared other nations.

Discrimination against women

If it has to do with medical care and, particularly, with whether or not birth control medication should be covered, many Republicans would have us believe that they are advocating life long celibacy for those who cannot afford birth control. These are medical issues. Moreover, it is for a woman to decide whether or not she will have a child and this can be done without recourse to an abortion. However, sometimes an abortion is necessary. Do people think women use abortions in lieu of birth control?

This is a matter I take very seriously. My mother gave birth to a child every year. Four children survived, but we buried the others: 14. These babies did not have a chance to survive. I remember the grief, the despair, the hospital bills. I remember thinking that God did not love us.

President Truman, President G. W. Bush…

At any rate, Mr. Boehner seems to be grabbing every opportunity to criticize and vilify the President of the United States. As a result, Mr. Boehner may run the risk of losing his credibility. No one sued President Truman. As for President G. W. Bush, he has not been accused of war crimes. He and other former Presidents socialize. President Obama has been very kind to his predecessor. Could it be therefore that some members of Congress do not wish for a man of colour and exceptional intelligence and dignity to be President of the United States of America. There is nothing wrong with being black or somewhat coloured. Nor is it wrong to be exceptionally accomplished.

President Obama makes us feel safe

Were President Obama not at the helm (when Congress gives him a chance), the world would not have much confidence in the United States. I am sure his predecessor meant well, but he blundered. There is such a thing as compassion and forgiveness. Consequently, President Obama has not thrown stones. But Congress would throw stones at President Obama? Suing President Obama borders on lèse-majesté, except that President Obama is not Louis XIV (Louis-Quatorze) and knows he isn’t.

Not taking sides

Please remember that President Obama cannot take sides in the Near or Middle-East without jeopardizing the safety of Americans. That’s not easy. Moreover, many decisions are made collectively by member states of the United Nations. No one wants another 9/11 and more wars, including Congress waging war against President Barack Obama? A house divided… The United States has seldom had as good and humane a President as President Obama.

As for countries who have just escaped tyranny, they may need help, in the short-term, but I believe they are perfectly capable of building a better future for themselves. There is a difference between intervention and interference.


Since Barack Obama was elected to the Presidency of the United States, I have been a keen observer. I have witnessed what seems to be systematic obstructionism and scapegoating. Suing the President would be more of the same, but worse. It would be a witch-hunt. Those days are over.

We all make mistakes, but is it possible for President Obama to make as many mistakes as extremist Republicans would want people to believe? This is indeed becoming a witch-hunt. The Affordable Health Act will be costly and many of the rich do not want to pay taxes. But the age when cancer was considered a pre-existing condition has ended. It seems to me that an insurance company should not shorten someone’s life. It is also my opinion that it is not for the Supreme Court to rule on what type of medication should be covered. This could turn into a circus. A medical prescription is a medical prescription.

Wishing all of you a fine week.


Sources and Resources

Treaty of Paris 1883

Treaty of Paris 1883 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
August 3, 2014
Revised, August 4, 2014



Fêtes galantes: Watteau & Verlaine


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Sitting Couple, by Jean-Antoine Watteau

Sitting Couple, by Jean-Antoine Watteau

“Galant” Style

empfindsamer Styl
the classical era

Traditionally, the “galant” style has been associated with music. It was the music composed by Carl Philipp Emmanuel and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, two of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s (31 March 1685 – 28 July 1750) sons.

In music, “galant” aesthetics called for a freer style than the contrapuntal (interwoven lines) music of the Baroque era. The “galant” style emphasizes melody expressed in shorter phrases. Empfindsamkeit and empfindsamer Styl are terms used to describe “galant” music, or sentimental music. Composers using the “galant” style are Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann BachJohann Joachim Quantz and Jiří Antonín Benda.[i] 

However, other composers could be added to this list. André Campra (4 December 1660 – 29 June 1744 in Versailles) composed L’Europe galante (1697), an opera with four “entrées” (called acts in the theatre) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (25 September 1683 – 12 September 1764), is the composer of Les Indes galantes, an opera-ballet, an opera-ballet we have already discussed.

Empfindsamkeit culminated in the “classical era.” Its most prominent composers are Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. However, the classical era comprises a larger number of composers. Moreover the word “classical” is also used to differentiate “classical” music, jazz or other musical forms, from popular music.

Gallant Aesthetics in Literature

the “Mercure galant”
l’honnête homme
la Préciosité

Although Empfindsamkeit, or the “galant” style, is associated with music, the term “galant” permeated the literary and journalistic world at an early date. It was used before Watteau’s Fêtes galantes and is inextricably linked with the commedia dell’arte in both Watteau’s Fêtes galantes and Paul Verlaine‘s 1869 collection of poems entitled Fêtes galantes.

Yet, the term “galant,” later spelled “gallant,” was used in France during the seventeenth century. In 1672, journalist Jean Donneau de Visé (1638 – 8 July 1710) founded Le Mercure galant, a literary gazette that had been called the Mercure françoys, when it was first published, in 1611. Le Mercure galant is now owned by the Éditions Gallimard.

Moreover, Précieux and Précieuses proned “galanterie.” At one point, Préciosité advocated platonic love which was unrealistic. In 1659, Molière produced his successful one-act Précieuses ridicules.

When Gorgibus, the heavy bourgeois father of the play, informs his niece Cathos and daughter Magdelon that he plans for them to marry the fine young men who have just visited but have been sent away, Cathos explains that the very thought of sleeping next to a truly naked man is insufferable:

Comment est-ce qu’on peut souffrir la pensée de coucher contre un homme vraiment nu ?” (sc. iv)
(How can one suffer the thought of sleeping next to a truly naked man?)

Cathos and Magdelon want to be courted according to the rules of Mademoiselle de Scudéry‘s Carte du Tendre (also called “de” Tendre). No woman would mind spending a little time in the locality called Petits Soins (tender, loving care). However, although platonic love constitutes effective birth control, couples seldom, if ever, choose celibacy.

Moreover, “galanterie” was expected of l’honnête homme and Préciosité FR demanded gallant behaviour and expression of sentiments.

“… précieuses such as Madeleine de Scudéry were responsible for introducing a new subtlety into the language, establishing new standards of delicacy in matters of taste, and propagating advanced ideas about the equality of the sexes in marriage. Their aims thus ran parallel to those of the honnêtes gens, and the ideal of the educated, emancipated woman was the female counterpart of the masculine ideal defined above.”[ii]

As well, although the Comédie italienne, or Comédie-Italienne, was banished from France in 1697 because the Fausse-Prude, a play, was considered an offence to Madame de Maintenon, Louis XIV’s second wife, galanterie, no sooner did Louis XIV die, in 1715, than the Italian actors were invited back to France. Italian comedy is part of galanterie. The Fêtes champêtres were a form of entertainment and one made believe one had escaped various limitations.

The Rehabilitation of Sentiment

comédie larmoyante (tearful comedy) (Nivelle de la Chaussée)
Bourgeois drama (Denis Diderot and Beaumarchais) 
reason vs sentiment 

We know, moreover, that Denis Diderot (5 October 1713 – 31 July 1784) and Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais (24 January 1732 – 18 May 1799) attempted to create a bourgeois drama, thereby making room for the expression of sentiment. Diderot’s Fils naturel (1757) and Beaumarchais’ The Guilty Mother (1792) are examples of bourgeois drama which followed Nivelle de la Chaussée‘s (14 Feb 1692 – 14 May 1754) comédie larmoyante (tearful comedy).

Diderot wrote a treatise on his Fils naturel (1771) entitled Entretiens sur le Fils Naturel, ou les Épreuves de la vertu (1771), reminiscent of Samuel Richardson‘s Pamela; Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740). In 1767, Beaumarchais’ Essai sur le genre dramatique sérieux (online BnF) FR, also militated in favour of the expression of sentiment. However Diderot and, to a lesser extent, Beaumarchais were opposing sentiment to reason and their plays were also moralistic. I should also note that Diderot was influenced by Laurence Sterne‘s (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768) novels, both The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1762 – 1767) and A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768), and that he took an interest in Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury‘s 1699 Inquiry concerning Virtue (L’Essai sur le mérite et la vertu), part of which he translated into French.

The above may apply to the long debate that opposed reason and sentiment (instinct), and began with the publication of René Descartes’ Discours de la Méthodein 1637. But if galanterie is to be linked to the literature of seventeenth-century France, we must re-enter the Salons and revisit both préciosité (its moderate form) and honnêteté.

Moderation is “a,” if not “the” keyword in seventeenth-century ethics and aesthetics. In fact, as Philinte says in Molière’s Misanthrope, too much sincerity could be unacceptable, not only at court but elsewhere. Should one tell a lady that she put too much powder (white; Philinte to Alceste, Act I, Sc. i) or too many “mouches” (a black dot, not a fly) on her face? Molière was an honnête homme.

The Serenader, by Watteau

The Serenader, by Watteau

Two Dancers

Two Dancers (see Images, below)

The Fête Galante

Fêtes champêtres, le cadeau

There were real Fêtes champêtres. Many took place at Versailles. At times, an orchestra played, hidden behind trees. But the setting was intimate and it allowed badinerie (light conversation), a term used in music, as well as playful and refined flirtation, and a little silliness: “folletées.” Fêtes champêtres were a form of garden party and one could play shepherds and shepherdesses. This July, a few weeks ago, there was an exhibition, in France, of the art of Watteau, Pater, Lancret, Fragonard and Boucher. The link to the website is De Watteau à Fragonard (just click).

As you know, in the Salons, the subject placed under scrutiny was love and the main activity of salonniers and salonnières was literature. They wrote. Sometimes, one was given rhymed ends that had to be filled in. These were called “bouts-rimés” and demanded an excellent command of the French language and considerable ingenuity.

Our salonniers and salonnières wrote books, from the somewhat frivolous, but exquisite, Guirlande de Julie to Madeleine de Scudéry’s Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus (1649 – 1653) and Clélie, histoire romaine (1654 – 1660). Moreover, the fairy tale as we know it is a product of the Salons of the second half of the seventeenth century. However, the fairy tale was first developed in Italy from oral tales (Straparola and Basile). They were refined by Charles Perrault, in the manner La Fontaine recreated Æsop, but not as brilliantly as La Fontaine retold Æsop.

L'Embarquement pour Cythère, Jean-Antoine Watteau

L’Embarquement pour Cythère, by Watteau, 1717, Louvre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Embarkation for Cythere, by Jean-Antoine Watteau

Pilgrimage to Cythera, by Watteau, 1718, Charlottenburg (Berlin) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jean-Antoine Watteau

Jean-Antoine Watteau‘s (1694 – 1721) Fêtes galantes, bring to mind courtly love, the Roman de la Rose (c. 1230 – 1275), countless love poems, and the love songs (la chanson) of troubadours (the south of France), trouvères (the north of France), and minnesinger (German language), etc. Jean-Antoine Watteau’s Embarkation for Cythera (1717), L’Embarquement pour Cythère, and Pilgrimage to Cythera (1718), the birthplace of Venus, goddess of love, epitomizes the Fête galanteL’Embarquement is a sensual, yet sensitive treatment of love. These are feasts (fêtes) and the destination is an unattainable Cythera, a Greek island that is both real and mythic. Interestingly, Watteau’s paintings are considered genre paintings, paintings depicting daily activities.

According to the Glossary of the National Gallery of Art in London,

“Fête galante is a French term used to describe a type of painting which first came to prominence with Antoine Watteau [pronounced Vateau], whose reception piece at the Academy of 1717, ‘The Embarkation for the Island of Cythera’, was described as representing ‘une fête galante’.

Fêtes galantes, usually small in scale, show groups of elegantly attired men and women, most often placed in a parkland setting and engaged in decorously amorous play.

Precedents for this type of picture can be found in the work of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish artists but Watteau’s mix of reality and fantasy in costume and setting, and the open-endedness of his subject matter, were original to him. Pater, Lancret and many other artists followed Watteau in producing fêtes galantes, but did not imbue their paintings with the subtle depiction of human emotion he achieved.

Prix de Rome

In 1709, Watteau attempted to obtain the prestigious Prix de Rome, but came second. Three years later, he was again a candidate, but rather than being sent to Rome, he was appointed to the Académie as a painter of “fêtes galantes.” It seems he was a one-person Académie:

“In 1712 Watteau tried once more to go to Italy. He did not succeed, but he was accepted by the Académie as a painter of fêtes galantes—outdoor entertainments in which the courtiers often dressed in rural costumes—for his presentation of a scene depicting actors in a garden.”[iii]

As noted above, the “Embarquement pour Cythère” was Watteau’s “reception piece.” The 1717 version of The Pilgrimage to Cythera could be Watteau’s second version, but I have not found a third Embarquement, mentioned in Britannica.

Claude Gillot

Watteau had been a student of Claude Gillot and had lived at his home. That was his introduction to the commedia dell’arte. Gillot was a set designer.

“Watteau’s art exemplifies the profound influence of the theatre as a motif of inspiration on the painting of the 18th century. The strongest influence on his work was exercised not by solemn tragedy but by the most ephemeral theatrical forms. One major influence was the commedia dell’arte, in which words count significantly less than gestures, a theatre linked to the actor, who brings his own routines with him.”[iv]

Watteau suffered from tuberculosis and died at the age of 37.

Detail of Woman Seen from the Back Seated on the Ground by Jean-Antoine Watteau c1717-18. Photograph: The Trustees of the British Museum, London

Detail of Woman Seen from the Back Seated on the Ground by Jean-Antoine Watteau c. 1717-18. Photograph: The Trustees of the British Museum, London

Paul Verlaine

Where literature is concerned, in 1869, French poet Paul Verlaine (30 March 1844 – 8 January 1896) published a collection of “fin de siècle” poems, entitled Fêtes galantes. These were an inspiration to “Art Déco” artists such as Claude Barbier, whose art we have explored.

Many of Paul Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes poems contain allusions to the commedia dell’arte and allusions to Watteau and the Venetian carnival or Fêtes vénitiennes. Verlaine’s collection of poems may be read online by clicking on Fêtes galantes FR or Fêtes galantes FR (a reading). Translations into English are also available online. Here is one link, Fêtes galantes, but it includes poems that are not part of the 1869 collection. I have also found a Gutenberg Project English translation of poems by Verlaine [EBook #8426]. It starts with a selection from Fêtes galantes.

Composers have also set Paul Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes to music, from Debussy, Fauré, Honegger, Poulenc, Ravel, Vuillermoz to Reynaldo Hahn (9 August 1874 – 28 January 1947). Karina Gauvin and Marc-André Hamelin have released a record entitled Fête galante. It’s perfect, but I’m past my birthday.


Watteau had created a new style that was named: fête galante and became an Académie. What he depicted is our need to escape reality from time to time. Fantasy is an element that helps us cope with the disappointments confronting us.

As for Verlaine’s collection of poems entitled Fêtes galantes, it explores the same themes as Watteau: the commedia dell’arte, love. Moreover, the style is also very much the same as Watteau: ethereal, evanescent, nostalgic, and forever new. Verlaine’s poems are an enchantment.

Wishing you a lovely weekend.


Sources and Resources


I have shown oils and a few of Watteau’s chalk drawings. These demonstrate controlled spontaneity.

  1. The Serenader, c. 1715 (oil; Chantilly)
  2. Dancers (chalk)
  3. Seated Woman (chalk; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY)
  4. Three Studies of a Lady with a Hat, c. 1715 (chalk; Bruxelles)


[i] “empfindsamer Stil.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 29 Jul. 2014. <>.

[ii] “French literature.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 31 Jul. 2014. <>.

[iii] “Antoine Watteau.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 29 Jul. 2014. <>.

[iv] “Antoine Watteau.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 31 Jul. 2014. <>.


“Si mes vers avaient des ailes” & “À Chloris”
Victor Hugo & Théophile de Viau
Reynaldo Hahn
Karina Gauvin & Marc-André Hamelin 
© Micheline Walker
August 1, 2014







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