Tuesday's Titillating Treasure: A Child's Plaything

Today's Titillating Treasure is the enchanting painting Two Sisters by Jean Baptiste Claude Richard, Abbé de Saint-Non.  The Abbé was born in Paris in 1727.  He was the youngest son of a land-rich, coin-poor gentleman, studied theology at the Sorbonne, and emulated the artistic style of Fragonard.

Although we do not know the identity of the sitters in this pastel by Richard, we are able to glean a few facts about them.  The girls are dressed as adults, in contemporary costumes, which was a common practice of the time.  Still, their costumes are quite lavish.  The girls wears gowns of expensive changeable silk and their be-ribboned hair has been artfully arranged. Notice the girl with the lace neck ruff and the tiny peach silk rosette on her shoe.

The girls take turns riding on a toy horse.  Beneath the horse is a doll called a Polichinelle.  This doll is a clown with a mask and a bicorne hat. Polichinelle is French for the Commedia dell'arte character Pulcinella, who was a typical character in a Neapolitan puppet show with a beak-like nose and half black, half white mask.

(Interesting side note:  The French saying, avoir un polichinelle dans le tiroir means to have a bun in the oven/to be pregnant.  Also, a polichinelle secret is a "secret" known to all the world.)

Learn more about 18th Century Children


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