Saturday, May 14, 2011

The unknown brother, and his son...

During my last trip to Paris, I discovered the existence and works of Martial Caillebotte, the Impressionist  painter Gustave Caillebotte's more unknown brother. Martial was an excellent photographer, and I'll show you more of his work later. 
In this post I'll concentrate on the photographs of his children, Jean and Geneviève.  Take a look at this one:

This picture is taken by Martial Caillebotte around 1898, and you see a photograph of his son and his daughter. Yes, there are not two girls in the picture, but a big brother and his little sister.  I found this sort of interesting, and also, somewhat disturbing.

Then there is this photo, taken at the grandparents' house, with the same two children, Jean and Geneviève Caillebotte:

The boy is to the left and the sister to the right.

Then, there is this series of photos, depicting Jean's haircut. (Propably his first.)

I was trying to understand the whole thing.  Why have Jean look like a girl, and then make a whole big deal of cutting his hair and dressing him as a boy?  I was wondering if this was his father's sick artistic consept, and that the boy just had to go through with it, endure those years until the hair was long enough for the photoshoot?
Then, a friend of mine had another idea: Maybe it was him, the boy, wanting to look like a girl, and his parents being open-minded about it, until one day, he had to let go of the girl look?  After all, he doesn't look too happy...

Well, now I actually have another explanation:  In those times, in certain circles, boys were dressed like girls until the age of ten, when the hair was cut, and their masculinity began.  Interesting.  Very interesting, and I've never before heard of this custom, at least not in France.


  1. There are still ethnic groups today that wait to but boys hair (certain Jewish groups, etc.) The cutting marks the end/beginning of some importance.

  2. Thanks for commenting. Yes, I know about traditions around letting the boys' hair grow, but in this case, there was also the practice of dressing boys as if they were girls.

  3. Actually Martial Caillebotte was nearly as well known during his life as his brother. Both sold a joint stamp collection to a collector in England for 400,000 francs. FYI, Marie Jean Caillebotte died as a French aviator 5 May 1917 over France childless. Geneviève died in 1986. The painting of the two of them, "The Children of Martial Caillebotte", was painted by Renior.

    1. Thanks for the additional information! It's interesting that they were almost equally well known at the time.


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