A blog about the 19th century and now

A blog about the 19th century and now

About the blog


From my perspective as a visual art practitioner I will research two areas of interest.The first being 19th century French history painting and the second the attitude of the artists towards the free and censored press. I will connect this research with contemporary developments and my personal artistic engagement. Through blog posts I will reflect on the works I have created and the sources I have used, but essentially the focus will be directed towards the future.

The development of the Yellow Dwarf.

Le Nain JaunePosted by Stijn Peeters Mon, January 07, 2019 13:46:53

As I pointed out in the first text about Le Nain Jaune it is plausible that the name of the magazine is derived from Madame D’Aulnoy’s fairy figure. In this text I will attempt to create order in the many variants of yellow dwarfs that have developed over time. First in connection with political and literary magazines, secondly the yellow dwarf as a fairy figure in books and as a theatre figure, and thirdly the use of his name as a pseudonym.

The original first magazine had a short lifespan and existed from 1814 until 1815, manged a short restart in Brussels under the name of ‘Le Naine Jaune Refugié’ which publication ceased in 1816. In the same year Le Nain Tricolore, or Journal Politique, des Arts, des Sciences et de la Littérature was founded . It was a magazine with Bonapartist sympathies. It didn’t take long for the whole group of editors to be convicted and sent into exile to the abbey of Mont- Saint-Michel where they stayed for three years.

‘The three literary dwarfs, or the bastard children of the yellow dwarf fight over its corpse’

The story of this caricature is told in the preface to the edition of January 1816: “Le Nain Blanc didn’t survive its prospectus, Le Nain Verte is even lesser known than the Green Giant and Le Nain Rose could be named after the colour of its envelope and the dwarf poppy. They are still circulating without resistance, without readers almost . By presenting their existence to the public I do not aim to clarify their title or colour. As the only son and heir of Le Nain Jaune , grown up in its true French school, I must declare why I wear new colours, because in principle I’m the same”. The text of the preface goes on explaining the symbolism of the colours and ends with; “everything for the Fatherland and the Truth, is my motto and I remain loyal to that”. (1)

In 1818 an English version is published under the name; ‘The Yellow Dwarf, a Weekly Miscellany’, a newspaper edited by John Hunt, No 19, Catherine Street, Strand. (2) I find more information on Hunt in a publication called ‘The Law Advertiser’ under the header ‘Insolvent debtors’. Hunt is mentioned as bookseller and publisher of ‘the Examiner, London Weekly Newspaper’. He seems to have been active from a large number of London addresses and even to have lived in Rouen, France for a while. I’m wondering if he continued his publishing on the other side of the Channel.( 3)

The first issue of The Yellow Dwarf reports about a lawsuit against a fellow publisher, a Mr. Hone. He is accused of publishing ‘three squibs in the form of parodies of part of the service of The Church of England”. The piece makes reservations about the argumentation of the prosecutor and puts forward arguments to show that they are not in good order. There’s a further piece about a speech on the freedom of the press by Mr. Jollivet, deputee of the Assemblée Nationale in which he is quoted; “The liberty of the Press is less necessary in a Representative Government than in other.-” “The Press” he added, “is represented as the only instrument by which truth can be made known; but the passions of men are too impetuous, to permit the Press that Liberty which some demand. The real National Representation is in the King.”

On the 16th of May 1863 a new Nain Jaune appeared in France, this time in the form of a newspaper, edited by Aurélien Scholl, this Le Nain Jaune would continue until 1876. An illustration in the head of the paper of the second of August 1865 shows a dwarf armed with a crossbow, rising from a grave amidst a group of onlookers. ( 4) Despite continuing the use of satire, the focus of the newspaper was less on politics and more on literature when compared to the first Nain Jaune. The list of names of its contributors is imposing, amongst them Théodore de Banville, Henry Rochefort ( also known by the portret painted by Manet), Emile Zola and Victor Hugo. Jules-Antoine Castagnary, a close friend of Courbet, ( see blogtexts 1 en 2) was chief-editor of Le Nain Jaune for a while.

Recently I was able to buy a copy of “Album des Bêtes à l'usage des gens d'esprit,” published by Aurélien Scholl. The book consists of three sections with engravings based on drawings by Grandville and Kaulbach. As publishing house is mentioned; Paris, Aux Bureaux du Nain Jaune, 1864.



The painting monkey on the title page smokes a pipe decorated with the head of Napoleon!


The journey of the fairytale.

Because of its great popularity Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairytale was translated for an English audience in the 18th century. The translations were adapted to different audiences, the rooms of noble and upperclass ladies and to nurseries. A very extensive article about the many modulations and adaptations to the story is written by Évanghélia Stead. (5) Le Nain Jaune turns into The Yellow Dwarf and Toutebelle becomes princess All-Fair . Sometimes the dwarf wins but in other stories the outcome is a happy one, the princess gets her happy ending, imaginably to spare the delicate children's soul.





Editions in the series Walter Crane’s toybooks and one of Crane’s woodcut illustrations

It didn’t take long for the story to inspire theatre writers. Their productions were called pantomimes. Of which ‘The Yellow Dwarf or Harlequin Cupid and the King of the Goldmines’ by Henry J. Byron is the best known. The first performance was in Covent Garden,London in 1869.


In this play the figure of the Yellow Dwarf is characterized as; “not the pink of politeness, but the in-carnation of villainy”.

A chorus from one of the songs:

Bad,bad,bad as he can be,
Here in me one you see;
Most atrocious
In what’s wrong, and never right
I delight, boys, I delight
The Yellow Dwarf as bad as you could wish for,
Yes, I’m a fellow of the deepest dye,
he very deepest dye,
Though I’m yellow



There are a lot of varying theatre-productions on the Yellow Dwarf theme, to name just a few; ‘The Yellow Dwarf or Harlequin and the son of the sunflower” by G.D.Pitt, and ‘Harlequin (and the) Yellow Dwarf or the enchanted Orangetree and the King of the Goldmines’, by T.L. Greenwood .

The Yellow Dwarf’s part in a pantomime written by James Robinson Planché was played by Frederick Robson . This painting from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, shows him in his role as Gam-Bogie. A creative reference to Gamboge, a bright yellow color coming from a natural resin and the word Boogeyman. This image of badness may only be compared to that of Roark Jr, the Yellow bastard from Frank Miller’s Sin City. A sadist untouchable by wealth and connections. But now I’ve strayed far from chlidren’s fairytales.



Namesakes

In April 1894 the first Yellow Book was published , a series published by The Boldley Head. With Aubrey Beardsley as art editor and Henry Harland as literary editor, the new magazine would publish works unlikely to be accepted by mainstream publishers. Harland contributed a lot of short stories and was fond of using pseudonyms, for each of which he adjusted his writing style. He wrote three satirical essays under the pen name “The Yellow Dwarf ( 6)





Le Nain Jaune is the title of a book Pascal Jardin wrote in loving memory of his father Jean Jardin , the yellow dwarf being his nickname. A book filled with anecdotes about a happy childhood and a father as a practical joker. By publishing his book “Des Gens Tres Bien” a painful family tragedy becomes visible, as grandson Alexandre reveals the collaboration history of his grandfather. During the World War Two occupation of France Jean Jardin acted as Head of the President’s Office for Pierre Laval. Laval was notorious for his role leading the government of Vichy and his collaboration with the German authorities. In 1945 he was convicted for treason and executed by firing squad. In his book Alexandre Jardin explores the efforts of his family to portray his grandfather as a typical civil servant, loyal to his superiors, simply carrying out orders. And tries to come to terms with the past. (7)


Sourcematerial

1. https://books.google.nl/books?id=QN1GAAAAcAAJ&pg=PP9&lpg=PP9&dq=le+nain+tricolore&source=bl&ots=7oXl7Net_N&sig=5PkeDtQx9IYUIwxFj-EzzQusL1k&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj31f2H7rXfAhXDb1AKHXgvBy4Q6AEwBnoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=le%20nain%20tricolore&f=false

2. (Nrs 1 -21 of ‘The Yellow Dwarf’ can be read through Google Books) https://books.google.nl/books?id=LHoeAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA8&dq=the+yellow+dwarf++j.hunt,no.19+Catherine+street+Strand&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiNpPLStbbfAhWB2aQKHTRPADgQ6AEIKzAA#v=onepage&q=the%20yellow%20dwarf%20%20j.hunt%2Cno.19%20Catherine%20street%20Strand&f=false

3. https://books.google.nl/books?id=AuMuAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA266&dq=publisher++j.hunt,no.19+Catherine+street+Strand&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0593ktbbfAhWMqaQKHeXvCtYQ6AEILzAB#v=onepage&q=publisher%20%20j.hunt%2Cno.19%20Catherine%20street%20Strand&f=false

4. Unfortunately I can only find low-res images of this frontpage, if someone finds a picture with a higher resolution I would be much obliged.

5. Évanghélia Stead, ‘Les perversions du merveilleux dans la petite revue; ou, Comment le Nain Jaune se mua en Yellow Dwarf’, in ‘Anamorphoses decadents: lárt de la défiguration, 1880-1914, etudes offertes a Jean de Palacio’. Presse de L’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 2002

6. On Henry Harlands activities and writers’ carreer in New York, Parijs and London see Barbara Schmidt’s article, http://1890s.ca/PDFs/harland_bio.pdf

7. http://anyhow-anyhow.blogspot.com/2011/01/un-jardin-plein-de-ronces.html



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