(b. 1700, Pontoise, d. 1759, Paris)
Singerie: The Concertc. 1739
Oil on canvas, 89 x 151 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Singerie is the French word for "Monkey Trick". It is a genre depicting monkeys apeing human behaviour, often fashionably attired, intended as a diverting sight, always with a gentle cast of mild satire. Singeries were popular among French artists in the early 18th century, though the term is most usually reserved for a type of decorative painting associated with French Rococo. It originated with the French decorator and designer Jean Berain, who included dressed figures of monkeys in many of his arabesque wall decorations. The emergence of singerie as a distinct genre, however, is usually attributed to the decorator Claude III Audran, who in 1709 painted a large picture of monkeys seated at table for the Château de Marly. In France the most famous such rococo decor are Christophe Huet's Grande Singerie and Petite Singerie decors at the Château de Chantilly.
The six canvases by Huet, which depict monkeys dressed up as humans and engaged in various country leisure activities, originally formed part of the decor of a salon in the Château de La Norville. The salon had paneling by the sculptor Nicolas Pineau, which framed the six singeries. In his design, Pineau positioned four of the canvases - The Fishermen, The Dance, The Picnic, and the Concert - as overdoors, while installing the remaining two - The Painter and The Sculptor - above pier glasses.