Jean-Francois de Bastide – La Petite Maison, 1758

———————————————————————————————–Art in Fiction

J Bastide-reader- 1.jpg

Mélite, struck by this coup d’oeil, began to praise attentively and lost the desire to tease Trémicour. As she had lived without coquetry and without lovers, she had applied herself to self-instruction, whereas other women learned to love and to deceive, and she really had taste and acquaintances; she appreciated at a glance the talent of the most famous artists, who themselves owed to her esteem for masterpieces that immortality which so many women often prevent them from deserving by their love for trifles.

She praised the lightness of the chisel of the ingenious Pineau [3], who had presided over the sculpture; she admired the talents of Dandrillon [4], who had employed all his industry to preserve the most imperceptible delicacy of carpentry and sculpture; but above all, losing sight of the importunities to which she exposed herself to Trémicour by raising his vanity, she lavished upon him the praises which he deserved by his taste and choice.

“That pleases me”, she said; that is how I like to employ the advantages of fortune. It is no longer a small house: it is the temple of genius and taste …

– That is how the asylum of love must be”, he said tenderly. Without knowing that this god, who would have created other miracles for you, you feel that, to inspire, we must at least appear inspired by him …

– I think as you do, ‘she said; but why then, as I have heard, do so many petites maisons display bad taste?

– It is because those who possess them have desire without love”, he replied; “It is because love had not stopped that you would one day come to them.”

Mélite listened, and still would have listened further, but a kiss pressed to her hand told her that Trémicour had come there to pay homage to all the agreeable things he would find occasion to tell her about. She rose to see other rooms. The Marquis, who had observed her so touched by the beauty of the salon, and who had better things to show, hoped that more tender objects would touch her more, and was careful to keep her from running to her destiny. He gave her his hand, and they went right into a bedroom.

This room is square and panelled; a bed of daffodil coloured Péquin cloth trimmed with the most beautiful colours is enclosed in a niche placed in front of one of the windows that overlook the garden. It has not forgotten to place mirrors in the four corners. This room, moreover, ended in vault that contains in a circular frame a painting where Peter [5] has painted with all his art Hercules in the arms of Morpheus, awakened by Love. All the panels are finished in a soft sulphur colour; the marquetry in the parquet floor is of amaranth and cedar woods, the marbles are turquoise blue. Delightful bronzes and porcelain are placed, with choice and without confusion, on marble console tables distributed under the four mirrors; And, lastly, beautiful furniture of various shapes and forms that relate to the ideas everywhere expressed in this house, obliging the most frigid minds to feel a little of the voluptuousness which they suggest.

Mélite dare not praise anything; she even began to fear her feelings. She said only a few words, and Trémicour might have complained of it; but he understood, and he had good eyes; he would even have thanked her for his silence if he had not perceived that marks of gratitude are a mockery as long as a woman can disavow the ideas which we thank her. She entered the next room, and found another unexpected. This room is a boudoir, a place that it is unnecessary to name to the one who enters there, for the mind and the heart divine the situation at the same time. All the walls are covered with mirrors, with their borders masked by artificial tree trunks and carved foliage arranged with admirable skill. These trees are disposed in such a way that they appear to form an ordered arrangement; they are strewn with flowers and laden with candelabra whose wax candles provide a soft light in the mirrors, by the care we took in the end of the room, to spread light fabrics more or less over these transparent bodies, magic that accords so well with the optical effect that one can believe that you are in a natural grove illuminated with the aassisatnce of art. The niche in which the Ottoman is placed, a style of bed sitting on a rosewood parquet floor, is enriched with gold fringes mixed with green, and furnished with cushions of different textures. The entire perimeter and ceiling of this niche are also covered with mirors; Finally, carpentry and sculpture are painted in a colour matching the different objects they represent, and this colour has been applied by Dandrillon [6] so that it radiates violet, jasmine and rose. All this decoration is placed on a partition wall that is not very thick, and around which there is a fairly spacious corridor in which the Marquis had placed musicians.

Melita was in an ecstasy of delight. For more than a quarter of an hour when passing this boudoir, her tongue was muted, but her heart is not silent: He murmured secretly against men that engage all the talents to express a feeling of which they are so little capable. She made the wisest reflections on this; but they were, so to speak, secrets that the mind deposited in the depths of the heart, and who were soon to lose themselves there. Trémicour would seek them there with his piercing gaze, and the dstroy them by his breaths. He was no longer the man to whom she believed she could reproach for this monstrous contrast; she had changed it, and she had done more than Love. He did not speak, but his eyes were oaths. Mélite doubted his sincerity, but she saw that he could at least pretend well, and she was sensible that this dangerous art exhibits everything in a charming location. To distract herself from this idea, she moved away from him a little, and approached one of the mirrors, pretending to put a pin in her coiffure. Trémicour stood before the mirror vis-à-vis, and by this artifice, being able to regard her fondly without her being obliged to look away, he found that it was a snare that she had made around herself. She also had this thought, and wishing to destroy the cause, ontemplating her power, she thought she succeeded in making jokes at Trémicour.

“Well ! said she, will you stop staring at me? In the end, it irritates me. “

He flew toward her.

“So you have much hatred for me? He replied. Ah! Marquise, a little less injustice for a man who does not need to displease you to be convinced of his misfortune …

– See how modest he is! she cried.

– Yes, modest and unhappy, he continued; What I feel tells me to fear, what I fear tells me to fear yet. I adore you and am no more reassured. “

Mélite joked again; but with what evil skill she disguised the motive that wore it! Trémicour had taken her hand, and she did not think to remove it. He thought he could squeeze a little; she complained and asked if he would maim her.

“Ah! Madame ! he said, feigning despair, I beg of you a thousand pardons; I did not believe one could be so easily crippled. “

The air he had just taken disarmed her; he saw that the moment was decisive: he gave a signal, and at that instant the musicians placed in the corridor made a charming concert. This concert disconcerted her; she listened only for a moment, and, wanting to get away from a place that had become become difficult, she walked and entered a new room more delicious than anything she had seen before. Trémicour could have taken advantage of her ecstasy and close the door without her perceiving it to force her to listen; but he wished to owe the progress of victory to the progress of pleasure.

This new room is a bathroom suite. Marble, porcelain, muslins, nothing was spared; the panelling is heavy with arabesques executed by Perot [7] on the designs of Gilot [8], and contained in compartments distributed with great taste. Maritime plants mounted in bronze by Cafieri [9], pagodas, crystals and shells, interspersed with intelligence, decorate this room, in which are placed two niches, one of which is occupied by a bathtub, the other by a muslin embroidered Indian bed, adorned with chains of tassels. Beside it is a dressing room with panelling painted by Huet [10], depicting fruit, flowers and foreign birds, interwoven with garlands and medallions in which Boucher [11] painted medallions of small galant subjects as well above the doors. One has not forgotten a silver toilette by Germain [12]; Natural flowers fill the big blue porcelain bowls embellished with gold. Furniture lined with fabrics of the same colour fabric, the wood has Aventurine quartz design by Martin [13], to make this apartment worthy of enchanting the fairies. The upper part of the room has an elegantly profiled cornice, topped by a golden bell-shaped campane sculpture that serves as border with the underside containing a mosaic of gold interspersed with flowers painted by Bachelier. [14]

Mélite was overwhelmed by so many wonders; she felt as it were suffocated, and was obliged to sit down.

“I cannot stand any more, she said; this is too beautiful. There is nothing comparable on earth … “

The sound of her voice revealed a secret disorder. Trémicour felt that she was deeply moved; but as an adroit man, he had resolved not to appear to speak seriously. He contented himselfwith playing with a heart that could still renege.

“You do not believe it, he said, and this is how we feel that one must not swear by anything. I knew very well that alll this would charm you, but women still want to doubt.

– Oh ! I doubt not, ‘she said; I confess that this is divine and enchants me. “

Jean-Francois de Bastide, 1724-1798. La Petite Maison, 1758, revised 1763

Publisher: 1758 in the second volume of Le nouveau spectateur, Amsterdam and Paris, pp. 2: 361-412;

An allegory of the sensuous fascination of art to overcome the heart. A libertine, the Marquis de Trémicour, determinedly sets out to seduce an art student, Mélite, in his Petite Maison – a maison de plaisance, or house of pleasure in the suburbs of Paris designed for assignations. In a miniature Musée des Arts Décoratifs the rooms provide pictorial foreplay as Mélite admires the erotic paintings and etchings, with the artists identified for the reader in footnotes in the text. She loses her wager that she will not give in to him and is seduced in a reverie of aesthetic ecstasy as she is she overcome with sensation on the final page.

Compare to: Robert Bage 1730-1801 Hermsprong: or, Man As He Is Not, 1796 https://artinfiction.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/robert-bage-1730-1801-hermsprong-or-man-as-he-is-not-1796/

Notes on the artists.

3. Pineau. A sculptor famous for the ornaments, and the greater part of the sculptures of the apartments of our hotels are the work.

4. Dandrillon. Painter who found the secret of painting the wainscot without odour, and apply the gold on the sculpture without white primer.

5. Pierre. One of our famous painters, who by the force of his colour deserved a distinguished rank in the French school.

6. Dandrillon. It is still to this artist that we owe the discovery not only of having destroyed the bad odour of the impression which was previously given to the panelling, but of having found the secret of mixing in its ingredients An odour that is considered appropriate, an odour that persists for several years in succession, as many have already experienced.

7. Perot. Artist skilled in the genre of which we speak, and who painted at Choisi the prettiest things in this taste.

8. Gilot. The greatest draftsman of his time for arabesques, flowers, fruits, and animals, and who surpassed in this genre Perin, Audran, & c.

9. Cafieri. Founder and chiseler esteemed for the bronzes of which all the apartments of our beautiful houses of Paris and the surroundings are adorned.

10. Huet. Other famous painter of arabesques, and especially for animals.

11. Boucher. The painter of the Graces and the most ingenious artist of our century.

12. Germain. Famous goldsmith and son of the greatest artist that Europe possessed in this genre.

13. Martin. Famous varnisher known to everyone.

14. Bachelier. One of the most excellent painters of the present day, of whom he has lately left to become the rival of Desportes and Oudry, and perhaps surpass them.