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Phosphatine - La Fontaine

1910? Twenty-six 7" x 4¾" cards printed by Typogravure Goupil, Paris, picturing and presenting La Fontaine fables. Each card is signed by J. Shalon or Chalon. Group A: Seven for 80 Francs each from Annick Tilly at the Clignancourt flea market, August, '99. Group B: Eleven for $8 each from Bertrand Cocq, Calonne-Ricouart, France, March, '01.  Four cropped cards for $18.05 from Andrea Evans, Red Bank, NJ, through eBay, Oct., '02.   Further cards for €7-€10 at St. Ouen, August, '15.

The front of each of the cards has "Édité par la Phosphatine Falières" at the top. Beneath that is a large rectangular section. In all of Group A and the first two of Group B, this rectangle is bordered with straight lines enclosing a gray background. In the rest of Group B, there are no lines and no gray background. In either case, a delightful and varied floral border frames a large, delicately colored human scene. The lower portion of the framed section includes a moral, a title, and sometimes the first lines of the fable. Beneath the rectangle is the indication of Goupil and "Phosphatine Falières, Aliment des Enfants." The backs continue the fable. Many of the Group A cards are severely damaged by scrapbook glue, but all in Group B are in very good condition. On the back, those with a gray background on the front have a red floral border surrounding the text of the fable and a detailed blue-and-white rendition of the animal scene. Those without the gray have a blue floral border and a rendition of the animal scene in the same color. In each case for both groups the framing border is again unique, as it was on the front. Beneath it all is the same closing text as on the front: "Phosphatine Falières, Aliment des Enfants."

Group A:

AD: A woman slips a tip to a young servant of colored skin. "Why?" we might ask.

"Le Cygne et le Cuisinier": A lion stoops over a young child while his mother pleads. The scene is summed up in La Fontaine's moral that in times of peril sweet words can never hurt. (extra cropped copy)

DLS: A gaudily dressed man with sword sits on a table in a bar twirling his moustache.

FS: A Man is offered steaming-hot meat by a woman on Friday. Note in the top frame design both several fish and an inscription on not eating fish.

"Le Lion devenu vieux": An old cave man lies in his cave with his hatchet close by while a younger man stands outside the entrance to his cave.

"Le Loup, le Chèvre et le Chevreau": A soldier stands outside a door with his hand on the top of the door, but a lovely young woman will not let him in. The back scene may render the fable senseless: the young goat, looking over the door, can see the wolf completely.

TH: A mule rider outstrips the driver of a broken-down automobile. The hare on the back of the card has his paws to his eyes; is he perhaps just waking up?

"The Two Mules": The chief lies killed with many arrows, while the undecorated brave survives.



FK: The picture, echoing the text, shows what kings do: they destroy.





Group B:

BF: A couple walks through a garden. The male, with feathers in his cap, smiles and strides confidently, either reading or looking into a mirror. A woman holding a flower looks on and smiles with him. The border uses flowers below and peacock feathers above, but features a (plucked?) crow at the top center.

"L'Enfant et le Maitre d'École": An older man is instructing a young painter, who holds a palette in his hand. Is the speaker a teacher, or perhaps just a critic or a know-it-all?

FG: A young black man with flowers in his hand walks away from a home with an upper room. At the window of that room, a (white?) woman is seductively perched. Grapes decorate the side columns.

GA: In a familiar scene, the poor guitar-toting young woman is rejected by the mother with a large headdress.   (extra cropped copy)

"Le Lièvre et les Grenouilles": A mounted rider moves from right to left through the background of the picture, perhaps fleeing from a mounted group in the far right, while children and a woman in the foreground get out of the path.

MM: Napoleon sits, presumably on the shore of Elba, thinking over the conquests he had envisioned but now can no longer attain.   (extra cropped copy)

OF: A grandiose man strides forward, with two attendants behind him. Under the picture is La Fontaine's comment that every bourgeois wants to act like a grand gentleman and every marquis wants to have pages. Frogs, lilies, and pods occur along the borders.

OR: Perhaps I should recognize this scene from antiquity: a bare-breasted woman stands while a man lies (dead?) at her feet with a tiara nearby. In the background, across a river, fires and explosions rage. Who is this female reed that bent while the mighty male oak resisted and fell?

"Le Singe et le Chat": In a colonial scene, an old fruit seller looks towards us, while two children work together to steal and eat his fruit.

TMCM: One person gestures to another towards a table laden with food.

WL: A young child drinks from a stream. Is that an ugly dark witch who stands across the stream looking at the child?

Le Petit Poisson et le Pécheur (cropped): A figure dressed in robes and wearing a coollee-hat draws a very small fish out of the water with his fishing pole.

"The Laborer and His Sons": The rich harvest behind this hard worker shows the fruit of hard work.

LM: Might the lesson in the picture here be that a humble water-carrier can help the mightiest warrior?

FC: The humble man standing without food will find a way to get sustenance from the seated rich man.

GGE: Are we viewing the scene itself rather than a metaphorical translation of it?

"The Oyster and the Litigants": To whom does this oyster belong?

Verso of "Le Lièvre et les Grenouilles"

Verso of "Le Singe et le Chat"