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Femina Fox and Bust

1903 Complete set of seven photographic postcards presenting Jean de La Fontaine's "Le Renard et le Buste." Femina. $70 from Bertrand Cocq, Calonne Ricouart, France, Sept., '18.

The human representation of this fable shows a fascinating way of taking the story. As I walk through these photographic human representations of animal stories, I have the sense that the "director" and the audience both know their animal fables so well that the director is at pains to find something new and creative in the human representation. La Fontaine tells us that most people in high places are no more than theater masks that impress asses. The fox by contrast examines them slowly and from various directions and is led to say what he once said about the hollow bust of a hero: "Nice head but no brains!" The human story here has a gentleman (the ass perhaps?) admiring a bust, while a cleaning woman with feather-duster in hand (the fox, no doubt) examines the bust more closely, tips and turns it, and – apparently -- finishes unsatisfied with what she finds. What does this woman hold in her right hand in Card 6? In La Fontaine's fable, a fox seeing a bust remembers the earlier experience (the experience portrayed in earlier traditional Aesopic fables) of encountering an empty mask, which led the fox back then to say something like "Nice face but no brains!"