18th CenturyCaricaturesHistoric PersonalitiesHistory

La Reponse Incroyable – A Satire of Diplomacy

In this wonderful satire, the French Foreign Minister asks a British diplomat how he is faring. The British Diplomat says he cannot speak for himself in that matter, in order to know how to respond he must send a dispatch to London.

In the image the British emissary Lord Malmesbury (on the left) and Charles-François Delacroix, Foreign Minister under the Directorate (right) come face one another each wearing a disingenuous smile.

Engraved at the bottom are their imagined words.  Delacroix, standing ‘chapeau-bras’ and holding a cane, says “Bon jour Mylord! Je suis charmé de vous voir à Paris, comment vous portez-vous?” (Good Day, Mylord.  Charmed to see you in Paris, how are you?) Malmesbury responds. “Je vous suis obligé de votre gracieuse demande, mais ne pouvant répondre de moi-même, je vais dépêcher un courier a Londres; et à son retour, je saurai la réponse que je dois vous faire.” (I am much obliged for your gracious inquiry, but unable to respond for myself, I must send a dispatch to London, and when it comes back, I will know what I should say to you.”

In a satire of the vanity of the fashions of the day, Lord Malmesbury is dressed as an ‘Incroyable.”

Date: 1797 – A copy of this engraving can be found in the British Museum.

Height: 26 x 30 cm

Condition: The print has been cut to the platemark and mounted on another sheet of paper. Spotting as shown.

Inscriptions:  ‘Gouloir’ and ‘A Paris, chez Depeuille, Rue des Mathurins St Jacques, aux deux Pilastres d’Or’.

Related works.

Incroyables et Merveilleuses

The Fashionable Post-Revolutionary Set – Paris Circa 1796

After the fall of Robespierre and the end of the Terror, a wave of relief and of fashion giddiness swept Paris.

Young men known as “Incroyables” and their female counterparts “Les Merveilleuses” rejoiced in adopting a wildly exaggerated look which flaunted the social conventions of the time. They were the ultimate dandy set, the golden youth of their time, arrogant and outrageous.  Some of the Incroyables, known as Muscadins (because of their heavy musk perfume), had a dark side. They organized into bands and roamed the streets using their bludgeons and canes to harass the revolutionary Jacobins.

Engravings by Carle and Horace Vernet 

The famous French artist Carle Vernet (1758-1836) created a series of caricatures of the wardrobes of the Incroyables and Merveilleuses which became an enormous popular success during the Directoire period.  Later, Carl Vernet’s son, HoraceVernet (1789-1863) revisited this popular subject, designing a set of elegant engravings for a 1814-1815 publication entitled “Incroyables et merveilleuses.”

Please note that we offer both 19th Century original engravings as well as posters and reproductions of these fascinating works.  The descriptions make clear which is which.