Les Caractères observés par un vieux philosophe du haut de sa fenêtre (‘Characters observed by an old philosopher from his window above’) is a twelve-act play set in an imaginary royal court that presents some of the countless faces of the human comedy.

Characters include Jean Dague, who never stops “dreaming of long voyages, carriages and shipwrecks”. He is the Adventurer, and his home remains forever deserted. Philidor, the Determined, is a royal guard and his terrible temper always gets him into trouble; Doriflor, the eternal lover, collects refusals from ladies without saying a word. Le Gaillard, “that old remnant of the ancien régime […], looks as if he has escaped from a book by Mr. Rabelais”.

These are just a few of the picturesque, courtly, high-society or gallant characters Guy Arnoux drew for the book published by Devambez. Richly illustrated in colour, it was printed in a limited edition of 500, with 25 signed copies printed on special Hollande paper.

Arnoux, who had illustrated Devambez’s Quelques drapeaux françois (‘A few French flags’), was guided in his exploration of the infinite variety of human society by an “old philosopher”. From his window, he strove to respond to the philosophy of Descartes when he expressed doubt about the reliability of human perception:

“We see coats and hats go by in the street below, but we don’t know if there are heads under the hats or bodies under the coats”.

Guy Arnoux, Les Caractères observés pas un vieux philosophe du haut de sa fenêtre, Devambez, Paris, not dated.

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