LA FONTAINE, Jean de

Fables choisies, mises en vers.

Paris
Desaint & Saillant, Durand
1755-1759
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Reference : CPV-29-10
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Four volumesf olio (49,5x33,5cm), full red morocco, triple gilt fillet with gilt fleurons in the corners and in the centre of the fillets, gilt coat of arms in the centre, spines with six raised bands decorated with gilt panels, brown morocco title and volume numbering pieces stamped in gilt, double gilt fillet on the edges, gilt inner lace, gilt edges. (Minor wear and tear to headpieces and corners, old restoration and tear to one headpiece; several leaves and plates slightly browned, a few scattered spots and stains, 2 pages restored at foot and hole in margin of a plate in the first volume, small angular loss on one page without affecting the text).

Volume I. [iv] pp, portrait-frontispiece, xxx, xviij, 124 pp, 70 plates - Volume II. [4], ij, 135 pp. 68 plates - Volume III. [4], iv, 146 pp, 68 pl. - Volume IV. [iv], ij, 188 pp, 69 pl.

First edition of La Fontaine's Fables illustrated by Oudry, in an elegant contemporary red morocco binding with the arms of Mathieu-François Molé de Champlâtreux, marquis of Méry-sur-Oise.

Copy on large paper preceded by a Life of La Fontaine by Montenault. It is illustrated with a frontispiece by Jean-Baptiste Oudry finished by Dupuis and engraved by Charles-Nicolas Cochin and 275 figures hors-texte drawn by Oudry and engraved in intaglio by Aveline, Baquoy, Cochin, Lebas, Pasquier... The very beautiful and numerous floral or allegorical culs-de-lampe were wood-engraved by Le Sueur and Papillon after the compositions of the flower painter J. - J. Bachelier, and the typographical part was entrusted to Charles-Antoine Jombert. The second engraving illustrating the fable Le singe et le leopard after the letter.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755) had his first successes as a portraitist. He entered the Académie Royale in 1719 as a history painter. Around 1727, he decided to devote himself exclusively to the study and reproduction of animals, a special genre in which he quickly excelled, working in particular at Versailles for the king, for whom he executed several hunting scenes and portraits of his dogs. As artistic director of the Manufacture de Beauvais, he drew the 276 figures illustrating La Fontaine's Fables in black pencil, ink, wash and white gouache between 1729 and 1734. 

Jean-Louis Regnard de Montenault, who had acquired Oudry's drawings and formed the project of a beautiful edition of the Fables in memory of the great fabulist, entrusted the artistic direction of the project to Charles-Nicolas Cochin (1715-1790), who redrew Oudry's drawings in graphite before having them engraved by different artists.  In the Publisher's Foreword, he praises Oudry "... he studied these fables and [that] he knew how to appropriate the poet's ideas in his drawings so well that it seems as if the same Muse used M. Oudry's pencil to draw them for us in a way that is as poetic as it is ingenious and natural. He can rightly be called the La Fontaine of painting. Since no one has known how to make animals act and speak better than he did in his paintings, and particularly in the drawings we are announcing." Oudry's plates had a considerable influence thereafter, as much in the field of porcelain as in that of wallpaper, tapestry, objets d'art...

Provenance: from the library of Mathieu-François Molé de Champlâtreux, marquis of Méry-sur-Oise (1705-after 1790), with his arms stamped in the centre of the covers. Mathieu-François Molé de Champlâtreux was successively councillor at the Parliament of Paris, president à mortier then first president of the same Parliament. Olivier, Hermal and Roton state that these arms are erroneously attributed by Guigard to the son of Mathieu-François Molé. - Louis-Philippe-François de Warenghien (1771-1854), with his armorial bookplate on the counterplate. Baron de Warenghien was a lawyer at the Parliament of Flanders in Douai and later mayor of the same town. He built up a rich collection of books and works of art. This copy of the Fables appears in the sale of his library (1855) under n° 1538. - Most probably Octave de Béhague (1826-1879), quoted by Cohen. Sale in 1880, no. 703. - Marcel de Merre (1899-1977), with his bookplate on the front cover (not listed in the catalogue of the sale of his Literary Library in 2007).

A very fine copy in large paper, printed on laid paper (several watermarks including "Dupuy Fin / Auvergne 1742"), in an elegant period binding in red morocco with the arms of Mathieu-François Molé de Champlâtreux, marquis de Méry-sur-Oise (OHR pl. 260), with the plate of the Monkey and the Leopard in a second edition.

Cohen, 548-550; Portalis, 479-489; Rochambeau, n°86.

LA FONTAINE, Jean de