Luxury Design, Past & Present
A pair of French reverse glass paintings or cartoons, each of oval form, one depicting a man with a mass of hair or full wig using a brush to fence with a woman wielding a broom, the other with two characters fencing, both wearing tricorn hats and pale blue and pink silk robes, within restored giltwood frames. French, circa 1830.
The style of these paintings recalls the famous series of “Dwarfs” created by Jacques Callot in the mid-17th century in France. These figures experienced a revival in the 18th century with the Derby porcelain factory, among others, producing them as ceramic models for a considerable period of time. The scenes, depicting two gentlemen fencing and a gentleman and a lady fencing using a broom and a brush, may possibly relate to Moliere’s popular comedy of manners ‘Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme’ (translating as “The Middle Class Gentleman”). This play depicted the ridiculous lengths to which a man would go increase his status in life, leading only to mockery from his friends and those whose social ranks he aspired to join. One famous scene revolves around the main character fencing with his maid and it is possible that these pictures relate to the play. A pair of hand screens in the Royal Collection depict the same two scenes in silhouette, within borders featuring the interior of a theatre, thus supporting their theatrical credentials.