Detail from Un Bal Costumé (A Costume Ball) by Gavarni, ca. 1853. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
In this scene, a woman is seated at the right and plays a piano. A man stands behind the piano at the center and he plays a flute. Another man at the left, his back to the viewer, leans on the piano and looks toward the guests at the costume ball in the background. A curtain conceals the background on the right, and a pile of garments and hats are in the far right foreground. A decorative border in a reddish- or violet-brown color frames the image and includes fauns at the left and right, putti at the top, and shell and floral motifs.
This lithograph was created by the well-known 19th-century French caricaturist, Gavarni. The source from which this print was derived needs further research. Perhaps it was an illustration in a book, as the "30" beneath the title, Un Bal Costumé, may refer to a page number, or it may be number 30 in a series of prints by Gavarni. The date of ca. 1853 given here is based on the year "53" written next to the reversed signature of Gavarni at the lower right.
This lithograph was included in The Pipers: An Exhibition of Engravings, Watercolors and Lithographs from the Dayton C. Miller Collection, Library of Congress, March 1977. See another lithograph in the Miller collection by Gavarni, 154/N.
About the Artist
Hippolyte-Guillaume-Sulpice Chevalier, called Paul Gavarni (pseudonym), draughtsman, watercolorist and lithographer, 1804-1866
Hippolyte-Guillaume-Sulpice Chevalier, known by his pseudonym of Paul Gavarni, was a draughtsman, watercolorist and lithographer, who was born in Paris in 1804 and who died in the same city in 1866. He was a caricaturist whose early works were light-hearted and centered on anecdotal scenes from the daily life of fashionable Paris, particularly the world of women. He produced such lithographs and a few caricatures for the paper, La Caricature, beginning in 1831. In 1834, he began to make series of lithographs on particular themes for the satirical journal, Le Charivari. Gavarni's prints had already been published in England as early as 1829. After he spent time there in 1847 and 1851, his satirical prints were no longer so light-hearted. They focused, instead, on the plight of the working poor and contrasted their wretched lives with those of the wealthier classes. Gavarni counted among his friends some of the greatest writers and artists of his day - Balzac, Gautier, Dumas, and Edmond and Jules de Goncourt. His work was widely praised for the elegance of his technique as well as his satire, but his late work was not popular as it reflected his own disillusionment with life.
- For further biographical information on Gavarni, see two articles: 1) Michel Melot, "Paul Gavarni," in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online; and 2) Helen Langdon, "Paul Gavarni," in the Oxford Companion to Western Art via Oxford Art Online (both by subscription only). [back to article]