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Jean de la Fontaine is known for his Fables but he also wrote the Contes, whichunlike the Fables, can't be read by anyone because most of them are bawdy. Here is an example with the one intitled Le Bât. I choised it because it's short and that it give the tone of the entire book.
"Un peintre était, qui jaloux de sa femme,
Allant aux champs lui peignit un baudet
Sur le nombril, en guise de cachet.
Un sien confrère amoureux de la dame,
La va trouver et l'âne efface net;
Dieu sait comment; puis un autre en remet
Au même endroit, ainsi que l'on peut croire.
A celui-ci, par faute de mémoire,
Il mit un bât; l'autre n'en avait point.
L'époux revient, veut s'éclaircir du point.
Voyez, mon fils, dit la bonne commère,
L'âne est temoin de ma fidélité.
Diantre soit fait, dit l'époux en colère,
Et du témoin, et de qui l'a bâté."
The Contes were written in several times since 1665 and during thirty years. The La Fontaine's intertextuality in these Contes take its inspiration in gallic news, from Boccacce and in the Ariot.
Since 1585, a first edtion of these Contes was published with illustrations. This is the first one but not the least. The libertine spirit of them is an favoured source of inspiration for artists of the Enlightenment. That really this XVIIIth century they belong to. Frangonard's illustrations are the most known but many aothers were realized.
Personally, I like better the edition published in 1762 by the Fermier Généraux. In this edition, Enlightenment's sophistication and libertinism are very well mixed. During the 132nd CTHS at Arles, I proposed a communication, which will be published, which was intitled "From food pleasures to flesh pleasures : the disorder of senses in the illustrated La Fontaine's Contes".
Here is the abstract :
Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) wrote Contes. The ones studied here are an extract from the edition of the Fermiers Généraux in 1762, an edition illustrated fifty years after they were written. The corpus is cetered on the association of table pleasures and liberticism. The Contes with a such message and their illustrations put in relief the Terence's verse "Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus". So, with the choice of this passages illustration or of the correspondance between iconography and text, we can understand how the figure is composed. It also explains what are the codes that allow a sexual suggestion permitted or encouraged by liberticism. This notion is articulated on two aspects : the diversity in the change of partner and dishes and the trickery with sexual cheating.