A polygraph of the world, Baron de Vaux (1843-1915) published many beautifully illustrated works that are a collector’s delight.
This former cavalry officer served under General l’Hotte before becoming a journalist and sports writer. Mennessier reminds us that “in 1860 he voluntarily enlisted in the Sixth Regiment of Lancers, in 1863 he passed to Saumur as Brigadier, in 1864 he was a Sergeant, in 1866 or 1867 he left the service and worked as editor of a provincial newspaper, then he joined the sports journalism to deal with issues of breeding, horsemanship, etc. […] and in 1898 he founded the sports and social newspaper “L’Illustré Parisien“.
In his articles he mentions the most important horsemen since Baucher (Flammarion, 1888). Just to mention his contemporaries, he mixes Baucher and D’Aure, of course, L’Hotte, Faverot de Kerbrecht, and also Molier, Franconi, the Duke of Aumale or General Gallifet. And further on in his Equitation ancienne et moderne (Flammarion, 1898) we can find some old masters.
The charm of his works lies in the care with which the illustrations are chosen. The Baron did not hesitate to appeal to the most famous such as Crafty, Détaille, Princeteau, Caran d’Ache or Vallet. His tone is light, the pages are full of anecdotes, to the point that the Baron hobnobed with the “gotha” of the Parisian equestrian world at the summit of its golden age. The equestrian circuses were there to animate the nights of the capital and he was there to collect its essence.
However, his comments on women would not go unnoticed to the contemporary eye. In his Écuyers et Écuyères, (Rothschild, 1893), the man does not skimp on comments on the physique of ladies, without dwelling on that of gentlemen. Thus, at the beginning of his book on Marie Isabelle, whose chest seems too short to him, he describes her as having “a wet nurse’s chest and an ugly upturned nose”, before criticizing her work as an Amazon. Pauline Cuzent, Baucher’s favorite student, did a little better because, although the rider had a limp, she looked very graceful on horseback…
The good Baron also published books on duels, such as Les Hommes d’épée (Rouveyre, 1882) or Les Tireurs au pistolet (Flammarion, 1883), with a preface by Guy de Maupassant. One wonders if Monsieur Isabelle would have liked to invite him “to the country” after reading the comments about his wife…
• The books of the Baron de Vaux