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Les Oublies. Le Bon Genre Plate 79: three ladies and a child look at a sundial in a garden, watched by a man. August 1815 Hand-coloured etching. British Museum 2003,U.14

I was first attracted to this image by the gentleman and his shapely legs, as you might expect, since tight buttoned gaiters or overalls do turn my head. This plate doesn’t make much sense to me: I can’t really grasp the satire, I can only guess. The explanation given for the series doesn’t help immensely. “The series is devoted to costume, mostly set in fashionable interiors, but the plates are treated in a semi-caricatural, humorous way that links them with French social satire.”

My best guess is that this plate from 1815 is showing off the latest filmy white fashions and tiny pink Spencers in contrast to the forgotten origins of the classical influence, personified by the gentleman in common dress at left. His hat and the gaiters suggest the French revolution, now forgotten (see “oublier” though the reference is also to the small cakes being eaten by the woman under the tree). The clock provides a reference to the passing of time, and forgetting, but I don’t think it is actually a sundial. The strap makes it look as if the man can carry it, and that’s a needle, not the fixed vane of a sundial.

Whatever it all means, I do find this more interesting for the man’s clothing than the women’s; after a while, the subtle differences between white columns is lost on me, but that’s a pretty interesting buff-colored waistcoat.