The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Fair of Saint-Germain
  • Possibly Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe (1716 - 1794)
  • Possibly Henri-Joseph van Blarenberghe (1741 - 1826)
  • The Fair of Saint-Germain
  • France
  • 1763
  • Miniature
  • Painted on vellum
  • Image size: 6 x 8 cm
    Frame size: 8.3 x 10.3 cm
  • Signature: 'V. Blarenberghe / 1763'
    Label: '254'
    Label: '1971'
  • M17
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe’s ‘Fair of St-Germain’ ranks amongst the most fascinating images of life in eighteenth-century Paris. Its shape and size suggest that it was originally mounted in the lid or bottom of an oval gold box. That the miniature was reused and later framed as an independent work testifies to its extraordinary quality, and its attractiveness to later collectors.

    The fair of St-Germain, held annually in February and March was one of the oldest and most popular fairs in Paris. The fair was housed in semi-permanent buildings where textiles, paintings and other fashionable and luxury goods were among the items on sale. It developed into a centre for the theatre and was crucial in the development of the Commedia dell’arte.

    A great fire destroyed the fair’s installations during the night of 16 March 1762, the year before Van Blarenberghe painted the miniature. Rebuilding started in late 1762, and by 3 February 1763 a first theatre performance was given. It has in the past been suggested that Van Blarenberghe’s miniature commemorates the old fair architecture but it is much more likely that it celebrates the opening of the fair in its new buildings.

    Very few miniatures of theatre scenes and public entertainment can be securely attributed to Louis-Nicolas. Several more were painted when he apparently worked with his son between 1769 and 1778, but they constitute a small fraction of their overall output and are remarkably rare. ‘The Fair of Saint-Germain’ is the masterpiece of the genre.