Les Fables de La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine
Through a mistake, I ordered a second copy of this gorgeous book before I had opened the first. Now I notice that this second copy has a printing date of 2014, while the first was printed in 2013. I will repeat what I wrote there. I first noticed the beauty of this book as I enjoyed "Les Fables de La Fontaine Illustrées par les Plus Grand Artistes" published in 2015 by Circonflexe. Imagine my surprise a few days later as I opened some unopened packages of books. I had ordered it five months earlier. This large format (11" x 14¼") book is very impressive! As the closing T of C shows, there are here fifteen of La Fontaine's fables. Each is presented in a sequence of four pages. A stiff blank colored page on the left is followed by a title-page with several cutouts of major figures or objects in the fable. Through those cutouts in the stiff white page one starts to see portions of the colorful decoupage art work for the fable. One turns the page, and the stiff white page has La Fontaine's text arranged around the cutouts with a verse or two repeated in enlarged bold print. The fourth page presents the decoupage, a large single-colored "Scheerenschnitte" cutout against a background of the first page's color. Several colorful elements are then pasted upon the large cutout. Three things make this book so special. The first is the decoupage page. Fornage's sense of color and his gift for design make these artworks glorious! The sheer size of the background cutout gives the artist room to present cultural context with just enough color to let the highlighted scenes stand out. The second feature is the cutout page. I did not expect this element! The cutouts repeat several elements from the larger art work. These same figures are used also in a fine silhouette procession across the book's endpapers. Thirdly, each fable is set in one French geographic context, identified in the T of C. One rises from the fable at the bottom of the decoupage into a presentation of the region. For example, the first fable, FS, presents a peasant home in Alsace and offers peasants who live there, with their children and animals. This scheerenschnitte is, by the way, a true exemplar in that it was cut to present matching mirror images around a symmetrical center. Only the pasted-in fox and wolf are not symmetrical. The two pots they lean on are! Among the decoupages, my prizes would go to the simplest, like FS, FC, and OR. The best cutout is surely the lion in LM. What fun!