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Title: An image dealer.
Author : ANTIGNA Alexandre (1817 - 1878)
Creation date : 1862
Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0
Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas
Storage location: Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts website
Contact copyright: © Photo from the Bordeaux MBA - Photo L. Gauthier
Picture reference: 99.25.3
© Photo from the Bordeaux MBA - Photo L. Gauthier
Publication date: March 2016
In the middle of the 19th century, the French population was already quite literate, however great disparities exist from one region to another. Their distribution was very organized: the printmakers sold them all over France to merchants who in turn resold them to the many hawkers who crisscrossed the country.
The scene represented here takes place in Brittany. The picture dealer alone occupies the entire left side of the painting while the children circle around him to look at the illustration - most likely Clovis' baptism - from the almanac. The merchant is an old man with a wrinkled face and long hair; his shapeless, patched clothes and scanty baggage indicate that he lives miserably. He is speaking to the children and the painter has taken a bite out of him, his mouth open. His position, with the left arm raised, creates a large diagonal that cuts the painting in two and separates the peddler from the group of children. This gesture is also very symbolic: despite his misery, man can read and therefore has something to transmit; On the other hand, this raised arm evokes Christ speaking to little children, as depicted in religious painting. In front of him, the children, even if their Breton caps and caps are well worn and even have holes, have pretty faces, fresh complexions and clear eyes, which denotes a certain idealization.
The theme, the representation of small trades and daily life in the countryside and in the cities, belongs to the realistic movement which is linked to the revolution of 1848. The installation in power of the government of the Second Republic made this type possible. of subjects, as illustrated by artists such as Courbet, Millet and Daumier.
However, the work evokes a secular practice, whose irreparable decline is due to political reasons: considered as a pernicious means of dissemination, usable by opponents of the regime to propagate their ideas, peddling has been subjected since 1852 to very severe controls by a commission responsible for limiting the distribution of booklets. But this decline must be viewed in a broader perspective: since the middle of the 19th century, advances in education, improved communications between town and country, and increased material wealth have all combined to modify rural culture. The peasants gradually developed the habit of buying popular novels from the town, as well as the inexpensive newspaper, illustrated with vignettes, which almost always included a serial. Thus, as Alain Plessis says, "the peasant, through his reading, becomes part of urban civilization, he listens more and more to the city" (Alain PLESSIS: From the imperial festival to the Federated wall, Paris, Seuil, coll. “New history of contemporary France”, volume IX, 1973).
- small trades
- rural life
François FURET and Jacques OZOUF Reading and writing: essay on French literacy Paris, Midnight, 1977. Jean-Jacques DARMON Bookstore peddling in France under the Second Empire: great peddlers and popular culture Paris, Plon, 1972. Jean-Pierre-Alexandre Antigna Orleans 1817-Paris 1878 catalog of the exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Orléans, Paris, RMN, 1978-1979.
To cite this article
Agnès BIROT, "An image merchant"