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Gabriel-Jacques de Saint-Aubin, A Street Show in Paris

Key facts
Full title A Street Show in Paris
Artist Gabriel-Jacques de Saint-Aubin
Artist dates 1724 - 1780
Date made 1760
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 80 × 64.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1907
Inventory number NG2129
Location Room 33
Collection Main Collection
A Street Show in Paris
Gabriel-Jacques de Saint-Aubin

Framed beneath an arch of tall trees, a small crowd watches two characters from commedia dell’arte (a popular form of comic theatre) engaged in a mock duel. The show is watched by a mix of male and female characters from various social classes, ranging from young children to the elderly. This is very likely a street performance in the boulevard du Temple, which by the 1760s had become a lively area filled with cafés, inns, shops, street performers and permanent theatrical venues.

Saint-Aubin worked primarily as a graphic artist, earning his living from making etchings and engravings and illustrating books. He portrayed everyday life in Paris, including aspects of it overlooked by more established artists. His humorous sketches of the Parisian scene often showed recognisable locations. Saint-Aubin had ambitions to be a painter, and this rare painting from 1760 is typical of his choice of subject and lively treatment.

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