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The Cadum baby. 9th issue



For your information, the “San Sebastian” of 1934 (see item) is presently shown in the permanent collection of the National museum of modern art, at the Georges Pompidou Center, in Paris.


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“Most of the drawings of the child Jesus in paintings show a baby that looks old. Personally I whished to show a young looking child, and for this purpose, I chose the one that everybody liked at the time, the Cadum Baby that could be seen in every street of Paris”



Advertising poster painted on a wall in Paris, restored for the 100th anniversary of the brand



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Some Virgins and the Child, by Cranach, Botticelli, Bellini and Lippi.




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“The Virgin dressing the child Jesus” 1935, oil on canvass (57 x 43) privately owned. © adagp

Alfred Courmes used as model for his child Jesus the Cadum Baby and he shall do samewise for his “Ex-voto to San Sebastian” (see item). An advertising poster for the soap is shown in the background of the painting, on the upper left part of the building, as you could see on Paris walls at the time.(detail)

The Virgin, as on the “Ex-voto toSan Sebastian”, is at the same time a portrait of his wife Lucile. In the basket (detail) a beret with a red pompom and a sailor sweater with blue stripes…

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“What fascinated me most were advertising posters : all the ads for medicines, shoes and among them all, ads for Urodonal  with a poem that I still remember and that I can quote :


Quand l'Urodonal s'approcha de la Terre

                                            When Urodonal neared the Earth

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On vit qu'un archange conduisait la galère.

                                            One saw an angel heading the gallay

Sa flamboyante épée et son regard serein

                                            His blazing sword and serene look

Apprirent aux humains assemblés sur la rive

                                           Learned to humans gathered on the bank

Qu'il venait parmi eux pour défendre le rein.

                                                   That he came among them to protect their kidney.

I also saw a magnificent Joconde, advertising the Janos water. This water was nothing more than soda sulphate , under the auspices of this mysterious Joconde. This drug was a purgative that was used in all the families. Reference to this drug is made in the Feydeau comedy : “On purge bébé”  (Baby is being purged).

All these ads, and many others, have strongly influenced me. As I was very keen of Leonardo da Vinci, that I considered as the master of summits, I laughed every time one could see how a masterpiece could be transformed”  (extract of a chat of1986 inview to issue a book, for Soleils Noirs publisher, project that did not come through)  


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Preliminary study for a “holly Family” 1929, lead pencil. © adagp


Studie for “The Virgin seated on a staircase” 1933.© adagp


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“The Virgin seated on a staircase” 1937, oil on canvas (162 x 130) private ownership© adagp 


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Studies for “The Virgin seated on a staircase” 1935© adagp

Some history:


The history of the Cadum soap dates back to the early 20th century with the meeting of Mickaêl Winburn, American businessman and advertiser, with Louis Nathan, drugstore keeper inCourbevoie nearParis. A drug made with cade oil, created by Nathan, heals the skin pains of WXinburn. The story can start.


Winburn is known for some of the most famous advertising campaigns inAmerica. The gigantic posters at all the strategic places in towns, that’s him. The use of all possible supports, like trucks and sandwich men, that’s still him.


Winburn asks Arsène Le Feuvre (1863-1936), painter well established at the time, to work in order to create a representation of the brand, as a child, symbol of hygiene and softness. The saga of the Cadum baby is launched …


(extracts of talks from the book of Michel Wlassikoff and Jean-Pierre Bodeux, “The fabulous and exemplary story of the Cadum baby”, Syros-Alternatives editor, 1990)





To know more:

“The Virgin dressing the child Jesus” has been shown:

-1936 Salon des Indépendants, Paris.

-1946 Luxembourg museum, Paris.

-1947, “l’art français contemporain”, museum of fine arts of Canada, (previously Galerie Nationale du Canada) from March 27th, to April 28th, Ottawa and Montreal.

-1979 Retrospective, paintings museum, from May 16th to August 20th,Grenoble.

-1980/1981, “Les réalismes entre révolution et réaction, 1919-1939”, Georges Pompidou Center, from December 17th to April 20th,Paris.

-1989 Retrospective, La piscine museum, from April 29th to June 11th,Roubaix.

-1989, Rétrospective, Sainte-Croix museum, from July 3rd to September 4th,Poitiers.

-1989 Rétrospective, GeorgesPompidouCenter, from September 12th to October 22nd,Paris


 “The Virgin dressing the child Jesus” was quoted in following works:

- Jean-Marc Campagne, Alfred COURMES, Prospecteur de mirages entre ciel et chair,  Photographs by Robert Doisneau, Jacqueline Hyde, Marc Vaux, Eric Losfeld editor, 1973, page 35.

- Michel Wlassikoff, Jean-Pierre Bodeux, « La fabuleuse et exemplaire histoire du bébé Cadum, Syros-Alternatives editor, 1990, page 102.

- Vitalie Andriveau – Gilles Bernard, Alfred COURMES, foreword by Michel Onfray Cherche-midi editor, 2003, page 75.


 « The Virgin seated on a staircase » has been shown :

-1945, “Grands formats”, Bac Gallery, from the 3rd to the 21th of July, Paris

-1946, “The French paintings”, Central Europa (Switzerland, Tchecoslovaquia, Italy)

-1979, Rétrospective, paintings museum, from May 6th to August 20th, Grenoble.

-1989, Rétrospective, Saint-Roch Hospital, from October 21st to December 17thIssoudun.


 “The Virgin seated on a staircase” was quted in following publications:

 - Jean-Marc Campagne, Alfred COURMES, Prospecteur de mirages entre ciel et chair, Photographs by Robert Doisneau, Jacqueline Hyde, Marc Vaux, Eric Losfeld editor, 1973, page 55, page 1408.

- Saint Sebastian in art history since the 15th century, foreword by François Le Targat, Jacques Damasse editor, 1979, page 169.