‘La Rose Mal Défendue’: Debucourt’s Reply to Garnier

I owe this post in its entirety to the kindly gentleman @Dezilvereneeuw who sent Philibert-Louis Debucourt’s reproduction work of  ‘The Poorly Defended Rose’ my way.  This version, ‘La Rose Mal Défendue’, dates from 1791, the year Michel Garnier painted ‘The Letter’, his follow-up work to ‘The Poorly Defended Rose’.

Philibert-Louis Debucourt | La Rose Mal Defendue | 1791
Reproduction work of Garnier’s ‘The Poorly Defended Rose’

The fantastic thing about Debucourt’s ‘Rose’ is the spin he’s put on the vignette.  What’s different?  First off, the lovers have been transported to the bedroom.  The seduction appears to have been a fevered pursuit–our (anti) gentleman is practically yanking off the lady’s shawl.  But–and this is so lovely–the lady is in possession of the rose.  Is she going to give it away freely?  Or will the gentleman overcome her?  I do wonder; she has a coy expression.  Methinks this lady doth not protest enough!

Debucourt’s foreground also mirrors Garnier’s.  Almost every prop is in disarray, from the tipped chair and hat to the rumpled bedding and ribbon/sash spilling from a drawer.  Interestingly, the book in Debucourt’s version is closed.  @Dezilvereneeuw has pointed out that Garnier’s book is believed to be a songbook, which makes sense given the caged bird (does it sing?) and the lovers who will soon sing a song together.   All and all I think I prefer the theme of Debucourt’s over Garnier’s.  The 18th century was rife with depictions of women being taken advantage of, and it’s refreshing to see a lady with a bit more agency than a Pamela or a Clarissa.

What do my readers think?  I’d love to hear it.

If you missed the post on Michel Garnier’s ‘The Poorly Defended Rose’ and ‘The Letter’, find it here.


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11 thoughts on “‘La Rose Mal Défendue’: Debucourt’s Reply to Garnier

  1. I like this one too.
    Her bunched-up dress rises to reveal a nether material of the same hue as the ‘rose’ with hints of color present on her breasts, too! Lordy! The composition far more dynamic, suggesting conflict rather than passive resignation. Her excited visitor may soon find her knee planted in his vase, so to speak.

    Also, startled to see that Marguerite Gerard’s ladies wield massive arms…

    1. Massive arms, yes. I had not noticed this, but it’s so true. And now, thanks to you, I can see nothing else in Gerard’s paintings!

      The selective repetition of pink is nicely done–it’s the tease that eroticizes the scene. I confess to being a little bored by Garnier’s version; it presumes the fallen woman trope whereas Debucourt’s aims at pleasing gentlemen and worldly ladies.

    1. I’m so happy you shared it with me and, by that extension, my blog readers, Rob! It made for a fun comparison and most of us seem to prefer Debucourt’s version. An original print must be delightful to own 🙂

    1. She’s a bit of a tease – refreshing to see a lady behaving as such while (apparently) knowing what she’s doing!

      I’d be curious to see if Debucourt ever did a follow up to Garnier’s ‘The Letter’, though I suspect his ‘Rose’ said all that was needed to say.

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