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Sem

Sem (pseudonym for Georges Goursat).  Sem au Bois (title stamped in gilt on front cover).  N.p. (Paris?) ca. 1908.   Signed and dated 29/4/08 in pencil on the last plate; 6 other plates with the artist’s printed insignia.  [45958]

Caricature from “Sem au Bois,” identified by Prof. Pau Medrano Bigas as Jagatjit Singh Bahadur (1872-1949), Maharadjah of Kapurthala State under British Colonial rule.

“And if you happen to be an historian of Belle Epoque Paris (clever you) and recognize anyone among the caricatures, please let us know in the comments field…”

— UPDATE, May 2011:

When first I wrote about Georges “Sem” Goursat’s 1910 leporello Sem au Bois about a year ago, I ended the post with an invitation, asking readers to share any insights they might have as to the real-world identities of the faces caricatured in Sem’s well-heeled crowd of Boulogne woods revelers.

Last week, Pablo Medrano Bigas, Associate Professor of Design and Image at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Universitat de Barcelona answered the call.  Clever him, indeed, and lucky us. Not only has he positively identified several of the processional’s key figures, he’s also supplied a wealth of historical background information to further our understanding the illustration’s form and content.

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Sem (pseudonym for Georges Goursat).  Sem au Bois (title stamped in gilt on front cover).  N.p. (Paris?) ca. 1908.   Signed and dated 29/4/08 in pencil on the last plate; 6 other plates with the artist’s printed insignia.  [45958]

La "Mercedes" des Commissaires

"La 'MERCEDES'' des Commissaires," panel 1 of Sem au Bois.

A jewel in the crown of Baron Haussmann’s modernized Paris, the Bois de Boulogne opened as a park in 1852.  Funded by Napolean III — who’s said to have been taken with London’s Hyde Park  during his exile there in the 1830s — the “Boulogne Woods” offered the social elite of Belle Époque Paris an ideal grounds for the public display of their accumulating wealth.  In 1908, Georges Goursat, who was known at the time by his moniker “Sem,” caricatured the ensuing parade of bourgeois vanity in a spectacular yet little-known accordion-format panoramic album entitled Sem au Bois.

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