Raison d'etre

I am enthusiastic about home design and love French antique and vintage treasures.

This blog is about the things I find and use.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Tapestry...Cartoons...La Fontaine

I have always been interested in Aubusson cartoons (see earlier post), the resulting tapestry and their inspiration.  To illustrate a case in point I recently bought a nineteenth century cartoon for a chair back or seat which features the fable of the Wolf and the Lamb from la Fontaine - the seventeenth century French poet renowned as a fabulist .  

Many of his fables tell moral tales or reflect on aspects of human nature.  In this case the message is quite dark and was seen as commenting, not only on the inhumanity of man, but also on the political landscape he - la Fontaine - inhabited:

That innocence is not a shield,
A story teaches, not the longest.
The strongest reasons always yield
To reasons of the strongest.

A lamb her thirst was slaking,
Once, at a mountain rill.
A hungry wolf was taking
His hunt for sheep to kill,
When, spying on the streamlet's brink
This sheep of tender age,
He howl'd in tones of rage,
'How dare you roil my drink?
Your impudence I shall chastise!'
'Let not your majesty,' the lamb replies,
'Decide in haste or passion!
For sure 'tis difficult to think
In what respect or fashion
My drinking here could roil your drink,
Since on the stream your majesty now faces
I'm lower down, full twenty paces.'
'You roil it,' said the wolf; 'and, more, I know
You cursed and slander'd me a year ago.'
'O no! how could I such a thing have done!
A lamb that has not seen a year,
A suckling of its mother dear?'
'Your brother then.' 'But brother I have none.'
'Well, well, what's all the same,
'Twas some one of your name.
Sheep, men, and dogs of every nation,
Are wont to stab my reputation,
As I have truly heard.'
Without another word,
He made his vengeance good--
Bore off the lambkin to the wood,
And there, without a jury,
Judged, slew, and ate her in his fury.

The image for the cartoon was probably derived from a painting by Jean-Baptiste Oudry:

It was common for cartoon painters to use paintings and other visual media to create their designs.

In the nineteenth century the firm of Braquenie based in Aubusson produced hand woven tapestries for seat furniture (among other things) and I believe this,  now a cushion, is an example.  it was fashionable at the time to produce tapestries for suites of furniture in these muted monochromatic colours.

I haven't yet found an example in the vivid shades of the cartoon but it will be out there somewhere!

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