Prezage malheureux. [With:] Tout d’amitié et rien de force. Nicolas GUÉRARD.
Pair of Hand-Colored Engravings on the Theme of Marriage during the Ancien Régime
Who ‘Wore the Pants’ in 17th-Century France?
Paris, N. Guérard, [c. 1690-1700].

Prezage malheureux. [With:] Tout d’amitié et rien de force.

2 folio engravings [33.9 x 22.4 cm the sheets; 38.5 x 18.2 the platemarks], (2) single-leaf engravings in contemporary hand-color. Remnants of matting tape at top edges and on versos, a few unobtrusive spots, contemporary numbering of sheets at upper right edge of platemark, colors still bright and vibrant.

Pair of rare 17th-century French satirical engravings – here in vibrant contemporary hand-color – which treat the theme known as the ‘debat pour la culotte,’ a discussion about who ‘wears the pants’ in a marriage and, by extension, how non-traditional gender roles and authority structures at home broadly affected (and reflected) the health of French society during the Ancien Régime. Signed by the prolific Parisian printmaker Nicolas Guérard (1648-1719), these two engravings present ‘before-and-after’ views of a contested marriage, the first depicting a husband and wife quarreling over who is fit to wear the culottes, and the second showing the couple reconciled after the wife has ceded control of the culottes back to her husband. Quatrains at the foot of each engraving describe the tense situation, while ancillary visual details provide symbolic commentary (a beehive overturned represents society disturbed, a hen crows while a rooster passively pecks at the ground, etc.).

Cautionary tales about the (masculine) world turned upside down through the seductive or aggressive powers of women were commonplace in early modern Europe (e.g., Aristotle and Phyllis), and by the 17th-century such stories had been transformed into popular ideas about the changing domestic household under the absolutism of Louis XIV, and by extension were sometimes take as a microcosm of state politics itself. These engravings by Guérard recently have been interpreted along these lines by Joseph Harris (pp. 85-4), Chris Roulston (p. 130) and others.

Nicolas Guérard, who specialized in popular ‘costume’ prints and Parisian city views, signed these engravings, “A Paris chez N. Guerard Graveur rue St. Jacques a la Reine du Clergé.” Guérard produced two version of the same scenes (no priority known): The alternate versions differ from the present examples very slightly in orthography (e.g., Prezage malheureux vs. Presage malheureux) and design (e.g., the alternate composition is framed by an arched opening at the top). Both versions are today very rare.

OCLC locates examples of the Prezage malheureux at the Morgan Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France and an example of the Tout d’amitié et rien de force at the Bibliothèque nationale de France only.

* G. Duplessis, Inventaire de la collection d’estampes relatives à l’histoire de France, p. 367, nos. 6612 and 6613; R.-A. Weigert, Inventaire du fonds français: graveurs du XVIIe siècle, v. 5, p. 107, ns. 108; C. Roulston, Narrating Marriage in Eighteenth-Century England and France; J. Harris, Hidden Agendas: Cross-Dressing in 17th-Century France.


Price: $3,850.00

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