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Print - Le souris et le Chat-Huant
  • Le souris et le Chat-Huant
    Oudry, Jean-Baptiste, born 1686 - died 1755
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Le souris et le Chat-Huant

  • Object:

    Print

  • Place of origin:

    France (published)

  • Date:

    1755 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Oudry, Jean-Baptiste, born 1686 - died 1755 (artist)
    Chedel (engraver)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Walter Strachan

  • Museum number:

    E.249-1994

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 6, box E

This image of an owl is a book illustration for an edition of La Fontaine’s fables published in 1755. The artist, Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686–1755), was one of the outstanding 18th-century painters of animals and hunting scenes. He was also a tapestry designer and originally depicted the fables in 276 tapestry cartoons. These were redrawn by Charles-Nicolas Cochin (1715–1790) before being created for the book by several different engravers. Engraving was a popular method of reproducing paintings in books at this time.

This is one of a collection of images of owls amassed by the poet and scholar Walter Strachan (1903–1994). Strachan was fascinated by the art of the book. His interest was inspired by a visit to an exhibition of artists’ books at the National Gallery in London in May 1945. In due course he wrote many articles on the subject, as well as a major reference work, The Artist and the Book in France (published 1969); he also encouraged successive Keepers of the National Art Library at the V&A “to buy them for England.” To this end he visited France every year, to meet the artists, and acquired proof pages to illustrate his articles and to show to potential purchasers of the books, including the V&A. Over the years he amassed a collection of images of owls; some of these were illustrations from livres d’artistes, and others were designed especially for him as gifts or greetings. The collection of owls began with a visit to the artist Roger Chastel (1897-1981) in 1952, where he witnessed the printing of Le Bestiaire de Paul Eluard. In a subsequent article (“Genesis and Growth of a Collection”, for Connoisseur, 1972) he explained: “My article on Chastel’s Bestiaire had the happy result of bringing me a special print on Auvergne paper of the owl which I had admired in the book. Contacts in the art-world of Paris are close and friendly, and I was marked down as an owl-man, in consequence of which I have gradually been given dedicated owl prints and originals in every medium from pen and ink to enamel…” Most of the prints in Strachan's collection were contemporary autograph prints or proofs; this is a rare instance where he acquired an older print taken from a published book.

Physical description

This etching shows an owl sitting on a tree. In the background is a castle.

Place of Origin

France (published)

Date

1755 (published)

Artist/maker

Oudry, Jean-Baptiste, born 1686 - died 1755 (artist)
Chedel (engraver)

Materials and Techniques

Etching on paper

Marks and inscriptions

LES SOURIS ET LE CHAT-HUANT. Fable CCXIII.
Printed below image within frame.

Dimensions

Height: 30.3 cm, Width: 22.3 cm

Object history note

This forms part of a collection of prints, drawings and paintings of owls bequeathed to the V&A by Walter Strachan (1903-1994). Strachan, a scholar and collector of Livres d'Artistes, became friendly with a large number of artists, who, on hearing that he had a fondness for owls, began sending him images to add to his collection.

Descriptive line

Etching, 'Les souris et le chat-huant', after Jean-Baptiste Oudry, engraved by Pierre Quentin Chedel, Illustration to Fables of La Fontaine.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Strachan, Walter J. Modern French bestiaries. Private Library. vol.3, 2nd series, 1970. pp.171-192.

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Etched

Subjects depicted

Owl; Monkey; Castle; Cat

Categories

Illustration; Images Online; Prints

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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