Sunday, 9 January 2011

Un conte d'un con et de M Lacan, épisode cinq

By all accounts, Bey kept his Origine hidden in a secret cabinet - or back room or bathroom/toilet. My guess is that it’s the last. Though I’ve not found the French original text, my guess is that the word used is cabinet — short for cabinet de toilette. Which phrase was shorted to cabinet in French — and to toilet in English.

Which was? Not a toilet in the English sense, nor a cabinet in the English sense, nor what we think of today as a bathroom etc. It was a room where you made your toilette — washing, getting ready etc. That is, an equivalent of an English dressing room, with a washbasin — and a bidet, I guess.

Cabinets could be quite grand. This one, in a painting by Lobre, has a fireplace and a decent-sized art collection.

(There's a lot more to the picture, by the way, including a young girl leaving the room. But for some reason I can't manage to upload the whole image.)

This one is Louis XVI’s.

This one, by Bonnard, has a woman in slippers, a day bed and the usual spectacular Bonnard wallpaper.

(Bonnard really liked painting in the cabinet/toilet. He even did a naked self-portrait sitting at his sink, facing his mirror. You do find yourself wondering where he put the easel and paint pots.)

And here is the one used by Napoleon III’s wife, Princess Eugénie, in the 1850s. I should imagine Bey’s cabinet was at least as lavish — if not as, to re-turn a phrase of Alfie’s, poncified.

Next up A quick break from Courbet for a true story about the wonders of modern airline security checks.


mary said...

I did enjoy the cabinet toilette images especially Bonnard. Our bathroom is like that, would have been the dressing room I expect altho of course not French

Peter Silverton said...

i hope your wallpaper looks like bonnard's . . . wouldn't it be great to have your walls painted so they looked bonnard wallpaper - rather than like the wallpaper he was painting so wonderfully, that is