Street Organ Music & the Savoyards
by Philippe Rouille (021030 MMDigest)

poffertjeskraam1.jpg (47 kb)
"de poffertjeskraam" - Jan Anthonie Langendick (1780-1818)
high-resolution image:  poffertjeskraam.jpg

Dear MMDs,  A very interesting engraving of the very begining of the XIXth century appeared in a Christie's auction in Amsterdam, on Sept. 24th, as advertised and illustrated in the Christie's preview magazine of Sept./Oct. 2002, page 128.

According to this publication, it is a work by Jan Anthonie Langendick (1780-1818) entitled "The poffertjeskraam" , in black chalk, pen and brown ink, watercolour heightened with white, 7-1/2 x 10-5/8 inches (196 x 272 mm), one of a pair; estimate 7 to 9 euros for the pair (1 euro is equivalent to 1 US dollar).

I cannot describe it better than Hans van Oost (secretary of the Dutch association KDV) who gave me the following answer to my question : what is "poffertjeskraam" ?

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Now, that is an interesting question!  A poffertjeskraam is a typical old Dutch-Flemish fairground appearance.  My dictionary wants to translate it with "Baraque à beignets [a fritters booth]", but that is not very precise.  Poffertjes are a kind of micro-pancakes,  of about 4 cm or 1-1/2 inches diameter, made of wheat batter, not unlike the batter for pancakes (crèpes).

In the front of the poffertjeskraam, the poffertjes are made by filling shiny red-copper plates with little depressions in them with this batter. The plates are heated from below (now by gas, then by charcoal fire). After a while the poffertjes are turned with a fork (the man is very fast doing that!)  A normal portion of 20 of these poffertjes is then served on a plate with butter and powdered sugar, and, on demand, various liquours; my favorite is poffertjes with Grand Marnier liqueur!  (-:

The boy holding the box is almost certainly showing some rodents called marmots or guinea pigs. They were often kept as pets by the Savoyards, as they were called all over Europe, and indeed most of these people came from Haute Savoie in the French Alps.

The wooden building behind the baking place is made up with a lot of niches, each with a central table and wooden benches for the public to consume their "poffertjes".  It is still to be found on all Dutch and most Flemish fairs.  I like poffertjes!

Cheers and poffertjes with Grand Marnier!
Hans van Oost, Netherlands

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So now you will ask me : what about the organ ?

In the engraving, in the street front of the pancake maker, you may see four well-dressed people, and in front of them, trying to catch their attention (certainly to get some money) are two boys.  One is opening a box with probably inside some kind of animal (a marmotte ?).  The other is turning a handle on a box which looks very much like a small portable organ.  They could very well be Savoyards, since many young people from Savoie (in the Alps), travelled in Europe showing marmots or playing portable organs.

I do not know what the other engraving of the pair looked like, neither which price was fetched.  I send to <> a JPEG scan of the engraving.

Best regards from Paris (France), and thanks to Hans van Oost for his explanations,

Philippe Rouillé  (Paris, France)
30 Oct 2002 09:12:09 +0100

30 October 2002