Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Deceit, Thy Name Is Woman! Woman, Thy Name Is Delilah!

 Hedy Lamarr as Delilah in Sampson and Delilah (1949). 

Booktryst readers on the distaff side who, based upon today's headline, have been called to arms will kindly refrain from launching a pitchfork offensive against your humble reporter. Be assured that fourberies - deceptions - were not exclusive to females in 1840 France, nor at any other time.

It's just that with Fourberies des Femmes, French caricaturist Guillaume Sulpice Chevallier aka Paul Gavarni completed the work of Daumier, whose Les Robert-Macaire (1839-1840) pretty much covered the waterfront regarding the deceptions and follies of men.
Daumier's Robert Macaire deceiving a lover by exploiting her love for him.

"When politics became a forbidden topic in Le Charivari, where Caricaturana [Les Robert-Macaire] first appeared, Daumier and [publisher Charles] Philipon turned to social satire. If they could not attack Louis Philippe directly, they could at least show the kind of society that flourished under his gross and venal regime. Taking the flamboyant and florid swindler Macaire from the character that Frédérick Lemaître had created in a hack melodrama called L’Auberge des adrets, they showed him and his inseparable companion, the dejected and meager Bertrand, ranging through all kinds of commercial enterprise, in the stock market, in the banks, in the courts, and in dozens of other public settings, never failing to find eager dupes. Macaire is equally persuasive in the encounters of private life, where no situation finds him at a loss for an appropriate flower of sentiment…" (Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book, pp. 234-236).
The old pretend-to-be-sleeping routine.

Yet Gavarni's deceptive women were neither venal, criminal frauds, nor full-blown viragoes. With charm and wit, he gently illustrated the psychology of women who deceive themselves as well as their lovers, a foible not exclusive to women.
Charles! Charles! Do not ogle me and therefore all women ... it's indecent!
(But of course she enjoys it).

 “In 1837 Gavarni began his connection with Le Charivari, which did not conclude until 1848. In all he drew 1054 lithographs for his journal…Most of these appeared in series, some twenty-five of which extend to ten or more plates, and were afterwards published by Aubert in albums. Perhaps the best of these collections are Fourberies de femmes en matière de sentiment...
Screwed again by feminine wiles.

 "...Baudelaire had this part of Gavarni’s work particularly in mind when he wrote…that ‘the true glory and the true mission of Gavarni and Daumier has been to complete Balzac.’ Certainly the pictures of Parisian society provided by the two artists perfectly complement each other. Daumier’s preoccupation was the working middle class with faces and figures heavily marked by life. Gavarni remained for the most part outside the humdrum bourgeois round. He preferred to show ‘youth at the prow and pleasure at the helm.’
 You are free! You are simple! Have confidence in yourself! 
You! You are you! You! 
But you are a brat just for the pleasure of deceiving!

 "His pretty girls and sleek young men are bent on enjoyment. They live lives of graceful dissipation, with love intrigues and balls on the one hand, and pawnbrokers’ shops and debtors’ prisons on the other. Their motto is carpe diem, and they rarely think of the day or reckoning” (Ray, p. 217).
 On receipt of this letter mount a horse and hurry! 
Looking on the Avenue de Neuilly a yellow awning drops,
gray horse, Weller - 108 - Lanturn one lighted. Follow! 
Stop at the door of Sablonville house, a man and a woman go down
- this man was my lover - And this woman is yours!
“After the initial success of Caricaturana, Philipon proposed to Gavarni that he draw ‘Mme. Robert Macaire’ for Le Charivari. He responded with twelve studies of female deception in which he seems to have adopted Vigny’s belief that ‘A woman, more or less, is always Delilah.’ 
Allow me, Clara! Allow me, Clara!!... 
It is I who am just a fool with my stupid things ... 
you can have your velvet shawl ... Allow me, Clara! Come!
(The "I'll just die w/o it" routine).

"They made little impression, but three years later Gavarni returned to the theme in a subtler and more amiable way with one of his most searching and amusing series. In no. 37 he offers this exchange: ‘How did you know, papa, that I loved Mr. Leon?—Because you always talked to me about Mr. Paul.’ Gavarni’s playful mastery of female psychology is not the only attraction of the series. If Daumier could not draw a pretty woman, as is sometimes alleged, Gavarni at this period could hardly draw an ugly one” (Ray, pp. 220-221).
 How did you know, papa, that I loved Mr. Leon?
— Because you always talked to me about Mr. Paul.

 It is safe to say that the Delilah of the Bible practiced deception to a degree far in excess of these innocents at worst coquettes.

The name Delilah is a play on the Hebrew word, Laylah, or "night." Gavarni's dainty Delilahs do not possess the dark charms of their biblical counterpart; they may be fairly characterized as sunshine Delilahs, vexing, perhaps, but not cruel vixens. They perpetrate misdemeanors, not felonies. They may drive their men to distraction but are not bringing them to their knees as this latter-day destroyer of men did:

Yet the Layla here is based upon Patti Boyd, Eric Clapton's unrequited love and wife of his best friend, Beatle George Harrison. She didn't deceive him; he deceived himself.

Cherchez la femme? Non, mon ami. Cherchez le imbécile, the man who allows himself to fall for and continue with the femme who deceives. Is it Lola's fault that Herr Rath is an idiot?

The Blue Angel (1930), based upon Heinrich Mann's novel,  

One of the most interesting characters/goddesses in the world of the Old Testament is mentioned only  by obscure, indirect Biblical references. The ancient cities of Anathoth and Beth Anath are, in their earliest roots, identified with Anath, the sister of Baal, and Canaanite  goddess of love and war, one of the more dramatic job combos in the pagan pantheon. Square that, Sigmund Freud.

Which brings us back to Hollywood goddess of love and war Hedy Lamarr, whose 1942 U.S. Patent 2,292,387 for a secret communications device based on frequency hopping to aid radio-guided torpedoes was  a technological breakthrough. Though contemporary mechanical technology was not able to realize the device's potential, it was used in 1962 during the Cuban Missile-blockade crisis.

The device had the power to deceive the enemy's radio signals and prevent jamming a torpedo's wireless path.

Hedy Lamarr, secret sunshine Delilah.

GAVARNI [pseudonym of Guillaume Sulpice Chevallier]. Fourberies de femmes. Paris: Chez Aubert gal. Véro-Dodat, [n.d., 1837]. [Together with:] Fourberies de femmes en matière de sentiment. 2e. série. Paris: Chez Bauger [and] Chez Bauger & Cie., [n.d., 1840-1841].

Two large quarto volumes bound in one. A total of sixty-four hand-colored lithographed plates, heightened with gum arabic, including twelve in the first series and fifty-two in the second.

Contemporary vertical-ribbed purple cloth, lettered in gilt on front cover.

Armelhault & Bocher 662-702; 1728-1739. Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book 150 and 151.
[DAUMIER, Honoré, illustrator]. Les Cent et un Robert-Macaire, composés et dessinés par M. H. Daumier, sur les idées et les légendes de M. Ch. Philipon, réduits et lithographiés par MM. ***; texte par MM Maurice Alhoy et Louis Huart. Paris: Chez Aubert et Cie, Éditeurs du Musée pour Rire, 1840 and 1839.

Two quarto volumes. [8], [200], [4, publisher’s advertisements]; [8], [204], [4, publisher’s advertisements] pp. With 101 hand-colored lithographed plates, heightened with gum arabic.
Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book 162. Vicaire III, cols. 31-32 (under Alhoy) and V, cols. 572-573 (under Philipon).     

Images courtesy of David Brass.

Of related interest:

Femme Fatales Go Down Under.   

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