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French & Company

Charles Antoine Coypel

Folly Embellishing Old Age with the Adornments of Youth

Cruel and humorous, this pastel was exhibited at the Salon in 1743

32 x 26 inches


When Charles Coypel exhibited this remarkable pastel at the Paris Salon of 1743, it was succinctly described in the livret as representing “Folly, Embellishing Old Age with the Adornments of Youth”. The pastel shows an old lady in an elaborately embroidered pink gown -- which she protects with a powdering mantle -- performing her morning toilette at her make-up table. As she applies beauty patches to her wrinkled face, a pretty, high- spirited attendant places a lace bonnet on her head; both the old woman and the girl – who represents Folly – cast their smiling gaze upon a mischievous, bare-bottomed Cupid who flees the scene, Love’s arrow in hand. Although the old lady’s girlish dress and flirtatious demeanor are absurd – another 18th-century source describes her as “d’un caracte╠Çre ridicule” -- the picture has an antic jollity and good humor that keeps its satire gentle.1 Folly Embellishing Old Age with the Adornments of Youth is unabashedly comic, a rarity in high art of any period, though something of a specialty of Charles Coypel, who was one of the most original and versatile French artists of the ancien regime. His pastel is a virtuoso effort that occupies a singular place at the nexus of fine art, theatre, art theory and philosophy in the first half of the 18th century.