Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Gentle Art of Regurgitation During Travel by Coach, 1826

by Stephen J. Gertz

Inconveniences No. 5
Cruels effets d'une digestion interrompue
(The Cruel Effects of Interrupted Digestion).

Travel prior to rail was a harsh and rigorous affair. Rough, unpaved roads. and coaches with poor shock-absorbing suspensions rattled the bones and brought ache to the marrow. Highwaymen, accidents often serious, roadside repairs, casual arrival and departure times, poor food and shelter at roadside inns, and forget about restroom stops, were only a few of the manifold indignities to be endured. So uncomfortable and often painful was it that in the Marquis de Sade's novel, Juliette, the worldly sister of the hapless and hopelessly innocent Justine doses herself with laudanum (tincture of opium) as a matter of course when traveling long distances by coach.

And, yes, the prospect of motion sickness, mal de mer sur la terre (landside upchuck) was always a threat.

The inconvenient rigors of travel by coach were illustrated in a suite of twelve highly amusing plates by Xavier Leprince titled Inconvéniens d'un Voyage en Diligence (1826), an extremely rare color-plate book.

Plate No. 5 presents an amusing, if cautionary, piece de l'emesis vue de la nausée as a coach speeds along, causing the damsel riding atop it to hurl her cookies, which carom off a passenger's head and into a roadside beggar's chapeau, a hat-trick not envisioned by any magician before or since, nor a an undigested bank-shot by Minnesota Fats.

Auguste-Xavier Leprince (1799-1826), French painter and lithographer, "was the son and pupil of the painter and lithographer Anne-Pierre Leprince and the elder brother of the painters Robert-Leopold Leprince (1800-47) and Gustave Leprince (1810-37). Leprince received a medal at his first Salon of 1819 for one of six entries, five of which were landscapes of 17th century Dutch inspiration, which came possibly via the work of Jean-Louis Demarne. Leprince quickly learned to vary the contents of his paintings: at the Salon of 1822 his entries included three Paris street scenes, three portraits, and two scenes on board a frigate. His numerous Paris street scenes usually depicted some well-known contemporary event...In the last year of his short life Leprince showed himself to be a sensitive watercolour painter and lithographer, publishing a set of twelve lithographs entitled Inconvéniens d'un Voyage en Diligence" (Grove Dictionary of Art).

Indeed, bringing up the belly has rarely been so sensitively, artfully, and amusingly depicted. Heave-ha.

LEPRINCE, Xavier. Inconvéniens d'un Voyage en Diligence. Douze Tableaux, Lithographiés par... Paris: Chez Gihaut Freres... et Sazerac et Duval, 1826.

First edition. Oblong folio. Plate size: 14 5/8 x 11 inches (371 x 279 mm.) Wrapper size: 16 7/8 x 11 3/8 inches (429 x 288 mm.) Twelve hand-colored lithographed plates. Lithography by Englemann. Original tan wrappers printed in black.

Lipperheide 3658.

Image courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

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