of france

The closer I looked at this painting, the more questions the dynamic in it raised, and the less satisfied I became with the blandness of its current title(s). Always happy to dive into archives, what I found was an article referencing “satire of the ungentle sex” by “perverted” foreign artists.

Reviewing the 1869 Winter Exbibition at the French Gallery in Pall Mall, London, an art critic asserted that unlike their British counterparts who favoured “sentiment, pathos, and fun”, foreign artists “not infrequently“ represented gender relations through the medium of satire. Two companion paintings by Charles Édouard Boutibonne of the type then contemptuously termed “boudoir art” furnished an example:

“In the first, we simply see two ladies - the one dark but apparently frank, the other fair but possibly not candid - setting the seal to confidential consultation or intrigue: they are, according to the title, Friends for Life [Amies pour La Vie].”

The critic then goes on to the pendant, which very much sounds like the Boutibonne picture I’ve posted above:

“In the second we also see two ladies with a close family, or at least generic, resemblance to the former. They, too, have held more or less sweet converse together, but to a different result. The dark one, forgetting all diplomatic reserve, has started to her feet in a paroxysm of only half-smothered rage; her fair friend, on the contrary, perfectly retaining her self-possession, anticipates her congé [dismissal] with a low curtsey and a bland smile, that, while intended to stab to the heart’s core, is mockingly expressive of complimentary felicitation and infinite gratitude; they are now Enemies Until Death [Ennemies à Mort].”

In sum, while conceding that the French school still held on to superiority in technical mastery, the British critic patriotically concluded, “In the leading Continental school the aims of art have undoubtedly in general been lowered, perverted, or corrupted under [Napoleon III’s] regime; whilst there is an appreciable improvement in choice of themes, and increasing originality among our own artists.” The Illustrated London News, 6 November 1869.

Image source: Oil on panel by Charles Édouard Boutibonne, 1868, offered for auction on 15 December 2016 under the title The Letter by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. Some art sites have instead labelled the painting Interior With Figures.

The turkey, the bird native in the Americas, is named after the country Turkey. That’s just in English; the story gets weirder. In Arabic, the turkey bird is called “dik rumi” or “Roman chicken.” In Hebrew, it is “tarnegol hodu,” the “rooster of India.” In Portuguese, it is “Peru.” As in the other country, yes. In Greek it is “galopoula” or “French chicken.” Both Khmer and Scots Gaelic call the turkey “French,” too. Meanwhile, the French call the turkey “dinde” which is a shortened form of “poule d'Inde” or “chicken of India.”

And what do the Turkish call the turkey? They are slightly unique: they call the bird “Hindi,” after one of the main languages of India.