Artists seem to have discovered street vendors a long time ago, beginning at
least as far back as the 15th century. Annibale
Carracci (1560 - 1609), a great Baroque master, committed dozens
of street sellers to his notebooks but were all lost to time except for the
copies of them that were made and etched by Simom Guillain in 1664. These and prints like these provide glamor and
realistic fragrance to the complexity (read=”grit”) of city life 400 years ago.
The etching of the painting seller gives us an insight into what may have been
a broken and glutted art market in
Another master of common life was the sculptor Edme Bourchardon who engraved a series of dozens of such folks selling their stuff in the street, walking here and there, waiting to be given some money. Bouchardon more so than Carracci/Guillain provides a little more grit to his grit, showing some more wear and tear to faces and clothing, giving the backgrounds some darkness and depth. For example, “L’Orge de Barbarie” shows an itinerant woman peddler, playing her (revolving disk?) organ with a vieu optique cabinet on her back: neither of which was particularly light, nor made of some handy light asian hardwoods bought down at the local China-friendly Megalo-Mart. *This* was a working woman.
Fast forward a bit to the 20th century
and to an unusual pamphlet I found on the virtues and economic possibilities of
selling rabbit meat from door-to-door. It is just such a sad little work; it looks like
nobody in the
pamphlet wanted to be there, at all. The
woman in this picture being sold a box of rabbit choppings by the
undertaker-like salesman (“you!”) looks at the gift as though she hoped for it
to be a box of donuts. And who wouldn’t? Wouldn’t it be easier to imagine someone
hopping out of their chair at the sound of the doorbell saying “hey, that’s the
Do-Nut Man!” rather than “hot damn! The rabbit-pieces-in-a-box guy is here!”. I should
say so. And that’s why I’m voting for
itinerant rabbit-bit salesman as elevated in the Bad Jobs department.
The great money maker here might have simply been
the publisher, Ralston Purina Company (of
There is an entire section of this pamphlet devoted to rabbit skin selling (illustrated), but I just can’t go there, what with section headings of “Skins from Meat Rabbits” and “Prime, Full-Furred Skins”. Also the bunny eared-nosed-eyed angora baby slippers was just bloody indecent. (Did people really wear rabbit pelt coats? )