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Gabriel-Jacques de Saint-Aubin (1724-1780)
Gabriel-Jacques de Saint-Aubin (1724-1780)

Forty-nine small sketches by Saint-Aubin after pictures and drawings inserted and laid down into a 1741 Crozat sale catalogue; and another drawing laid down on page 114bis: Miss Davies playing a glass harmonica, with a statue of Artemis gesturing to the left inscribed and dated 'HARMONICA Touché par Mlle davies irlandaise entendu le 12 juillet 1765' and 'A LA SAGESSE 1763' black chalk, pen and black ink, grey wash 3 1/8 x 1 5/8 in. (79 x 41 mm.)

Details
Gabriel-Jacques de Saint-Aubin (1724-1780)
Forty-nine small sketches by Saint-Aubin after pictures and drawings inserted and laid down into a 1741 Crozat sale catalogue; and another drawing laid down on page 114bis:

Miss Davies playing a glass harmonica, with a statue of Artemis gesturing to the left

inscribed and dated 'HARMONICA Touché par Mlle davies irlandaise entendu le 12 juillet 1765' and 'A LA SAGESSE 1763' black chalk, pen and black ink, grey wash
3 1/8 x 1 5/8 in. (79 x 41 mm.)

inscribed on some of the drawings and with extensive annotations in the catalogue of the buyers' names, prices and comments
black chalk, some with pen and black ink, the album half-bound in calf
album: 7½ x 4 7/8 in. (189 x 125 mm.); drawings: 1¾ x 3 in. (45 x 78 mm.) and smaller
Provenance
Probably Pierre Remy (cf. L. 2173).
An unidentified book collector, his inscription '13.III.1940 PL' on the first leaf.

Lot Essay

'Pierre Crozat was the King of Old Master Drawings collectors. A private person has never owned a more precious and varied group of drawings by the great masters' was how Frits Lugt described Crozat in his Marques de collections of 1921. Indeed Crozat's sale was probably the best old master drawings sale that has ever taken place. The sale included 19,000 drawings divided into 1086 lots and lasted for one month. The catalogue written by the collector and expert Pierre-Jean Mariette is, according to Lugt, the first written with real care. Mariette added relexions on the artists and on some individual sheets, even though very few were sold on their own. The Louvre's annotated copy of 1759 mentions that already by then the catalogue 'became very rare as there were only very few copies printed'.
The annotations on this catalogue were probably compiled between 1775, the year of Mariette's sale, and 1785, the year of Nourri's sale (page 77bis). The expert annotator indicated in each case the name of the buyer and the price fetched in the Crozat sale. But he was also well aware of the fate of a number of sheets and inscribed next to the lot descriptions some comments on the drawings, buyers or artist. For lot 583, a drawing by Facini of the Madonna and Child, the expert wrote that Gouvernet bought the drawing in a lot for 15 livres, but Carle Vanloo praised it so much that Gouvernet gave it to him immediately ('sur le champs'). Lot 790, three drawings by Dürer (one of them probably that now in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Strauss, 1506/18) and one by Holbein, was acquired by Boucher for 17 livres. One of the sheets, according to the expert, was sold to a collector living in Italy for 600 livres. The anonymous collector framed it in a wood and ormolu frame. But in 1780 he brought the drawing back to Paris and committed suicide. The bailiff Aubert then offered the drawing to the expert, who did not buy it, and it ended up being sold for a mere 36 livres.
Similar handwriting and style of commentary is found on at least two other sale catalogues illustrated by Saint-Aubin: that of Crozat's nephew, baron de Thiers, in 1755, and Gaignat's in 1755. The expert of the Gaignat sale was Pierre Rémy, and it is possibly he who annotated the three catalogues with his comments. The dates on the three catalogues cover the period before 1782, with only one later comment, refering to the Nourry sale which took place in 1785. These dates roughly correspond to Pierre Rémy's period of most intense activity from 1760 to 1780. He worked till 1787 and died around 1791. The present catalogue lists all the great experts active in the 18th Century: Basan, Chariot, Joullain, Paillet, Boileau, Lebrun, but makes not a single mention of Rémy.
The drawings by Saint-Aubin were probably added after the inscriptions were made, and were probably cut from other catalogues. Emile Dacier, compiler of the Saint-Aubin catalogue, noticed that some of the drawings were cut from the Gaignat sale. Some more sheets might have been cut from other catalogues and assembled and laid down on the present one. The last drawing in this catalogue depicts the famous carved relief of The Apotheosis of Augustus and was probably cut from the Baron de Thiers' sale catalogue, as it was part of his collection. A cut inscription by Saint-Aubin on a drawing laid down in page 125 reads 'émoliere 252', which corresponds exactly to the Trémolières sold in the Peters sale on 9-13 March 1779 as lot 252, a catalogue that Saint-Aubin also illustrated. Le Sueur's picture of Alexander and Philippe in the Orléans collection throughout the 18th Century, is drawn by Saint-Aubin on page 120bis. That picture was again drawn by Saint-Aubin in the second edition of Dubois de Saint-Gelais' Description. The album also countains a small vignette of La Fosse's picture of the Lever du Soleil, now in Rouen. The picture was included in the Prince de Conti's sale on 8 April 1777, lot 596, a sale of whose contents Saint-Aubin probably also produced thumb-nail sketches.
The drawing attached opposite page 114 depicts a glass harmonica, a musical instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1763. The instrument was constructed of glasses fitted concentrically to an horizontal axis attached to a pedal. To produce the sound the player rubbed his moistened finger against the glasses. Marianne Davies (1743-c.1818), depicted here, seems to have received her glass harmonica from Franklin himself and was responsible for its popularity in Europe. She was introduced to the Mozart family in 1773, and in 1791 Mozart wrote a piece for the instrument (Koechel 617). Unfortunately the sound of glass being rubbed had a damaging effect on the player's nerves, and the glass harmonica fell into disuse by 1830.
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