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Monkey tricks in the borders of the Bute Book of Hours, English ca 1500 (Berger Collection, Denver)

Singerie is the French word for "Monkey Trick". It is a genre depicting monkeys apeing human behavior, often fashionably attired, intended as a diverting sight, always with a gentle cast of mild satire. "Pre-Darwinian theories were made visible over several centuries in singerie paintings, anthropomorphic images of monkeys, suggesting a common hereditary link;"[1] and the "chimpanzee tea party" with dressed-up chimps was a popular feature even at progressive zoos into the 1950s.[2] Singeries were popular among French artists in the early 18th century, though the term is most usually reserved for a type of decorative painting associated with French Rococo, singeries are an old idea: C. Alfred detected a love of singerie that he found characteristic of the late Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt.[3]

It revived with the French decorator and designer Jean Berain the Elder, who included dressed figures of monkeys in a lot of his wall decorations, and the great royal ébéniste André-Charles Boulle,[4]

A complete monkey orchestra was produced in Meissen porcelain. In France the most famous such rococo decor are Christophe Huet's Grande Singerie and Petite Singerie decors at the Château de Chantilly; in England the French painter Andieu de Clermont is also known for his singeries: the most famous decorates the ceiling of the Monkey Room at Monkey Island Hotel, located on Monkey Island in Bray-on-Thames, England. The Grade I listed buildings, which have housed guests since 1840 were built in the 1740s by Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough.


  1. ^ Ellen K. Levy, "Contemporary art and the genetic code: New models and methods of representation" Art Journal, 55 1996.
  2. ^ "For many years the Chimpanzee tea-party on the central lawn has been a popular feature of the summer season at the zoo" (D.D. Morris, "The new chimpanzee den at the London Zoo"The New Chimpanzee Den at the London Zoo" International Zoo Yearbook, 1960).
  3. ^ C. Alfred, New Kingdom Art in Ancient Egypt, fig. 64.
  4. ^ R.H. Randall Jr, "Templates for Boulle Singerie" The Burlington Magazine 111 No. 798 (September 1969), pp. 549-553.