Revolting peasants

15 May 2010

In 1756, while the poor of France starved and struggled to survive, the two sons of the Duc de Bouillon posed as peasants or Montagnards for the artist Drouais. Charmingly clad in picturesque rags, surrounded by artfully placed mess, the elder of the boys, Jacques Léopold, Prince de Bouillon (1746-1802) is shown playing a hurdy gurdy, while his younger brother, Charles Louis, Prince d’Auvergne (1749-1767) plays with what at first glance appears to be a giant rat, but is in fact a Marmot.

This was a charming and common conceit in eighteenth century art, but also, to the eyes of a modern viewer, a rather tasteless one that ignores the real sufferings of the French poor at this time.

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