Traces of the Hand

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Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman

Caricature and Social Satire

Paul Gavarni
French, 1804–1866
A Jealous Suspicion (Un Soupçon jaloux), 1830s – mid-1840s
Pen and watercolor over pencil on wove paper
9 1/4 x 6 in, 23.5 x 15.24 cm (sheet)
Provenance: Acquired from Herbert E. Feist, New York, 1975
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2007.15.37

verso

Paul Gavarni, né Hippolyte Chevalier, rose to fame for his caricatures of French society, published in periodicals like Le Charivari, Le Caricature, and L’Illustration. His pictures brought him commissions to illustrate serials and novels, including the works of Balzac. In the mid-1830s, however, his wit attracted the wrath of King Louis-Philippe’s censors.1 In order to keep drawing, Gavarni was forced to turn his eye toward private life. A Jealous Suspicion2 dates from this second phase of Gavarni’s career, in the course of which Gavarni kept his political bite by satirizing the bourgeois domesticity fostered by Louis-Philippe.3 In his series Fourberies de Femmes (Subterfuges of Women, 1837–1841) and the related Les Maris vengés (Husbands Avenged, 1837–1838) Gavarni portrayed women as dissemblers who constantly threaten their intendeds’ and husbands’ well-being.4 These lithographs abound with disheveled and defeated figures like the one portrayed in A Jealous Suspicion. Gavarini’s series became the foremost depiction of bourgeois sexuality.

The subject of this drawing does not wear a ring but, given his state of undress, we imagine that he is a husband in his own home. He holds a gun, but his tangled arms and emasculating nightshirt show that his wife or mistress wears the pants. His hair rises into cuckold’s horns, his twisted arms signal indecision, and his shadow on the door hints visually that the object of his anxieties rests inside. For all its energy and subtle combination of satirical humor and sympathy, A Jealous Suspicion is a mild example of the loathing for vice which increasingly embittered Gavarni’s life and work as he grew older.5

Highly finished, A Jealous Suspicion is clearly no sketch, but it lacks a signature, opening the possibility that it is an example of the numerous imitations and forgeries of Gavarni’s work.6 The drawing’s polish, its subtlety, the quality of paper, and the detail—notice the foreshortening from below of the gun at right, for example—all argue that this drawing is not the exercise of a talented imitator.

Emily Reed
Carolyn Zelikow

 

1. Judith Wechsler, A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th Century Paris. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982, 81

2. The title comes from an old label, which also provides an alternative title, "Jalousie" ("Jealousy").

3. Beatrice Falwell, "The Charged Image," in The Charged Image: French Lithographic Caricature, 1816–1846, Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1989, 12–13.

4. Marie Joseph François Mahérault and Emmanuel Bocher, L'Oeuvre de gavarni: lithographies originales et essays d'eau-forte et procédés nouveaux, Paris, 1873, 173–185, 224–227.

5. Wechsler, p. 109.

6. Charles Holme, et al., Daumier and Gavarni, London, 1904, xxiv; Paul-André Lemoisne, Gavarni: Peintre et lithographe, Paris, 1928, vol. 2, 247.

 

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