Once upon a time…
PAUPION Edouard Jérôme (1854 - 1912)
A Tale of Perrault.
MICHAUD Léonie (1873)
Title: Once upon a time…
Author : PAUPION Edouard Jérôme (1854 - 1912)
Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0
Technique and other indications: Exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1906.
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Vizzavona / D. Arnaudet
Picture reference: 99-012321 / VZD2092S
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Arnaudet
Title: A Tale of Perrault.
Author : MICHAUD Léonie (1873 -)
Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0
Technique and other indications: Exhibited at the Salon of French Artists in 1910.
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Vizzavona / M. El Garbysite web
Picture reference: 97-009229 / VZD4284
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. El Garby
Publication date: July 2007
The place of the story in the XIXe century
The craze for storytelling in the 17th centurye century, corresponds to the interest in popular culture. In the XIXe century, it was rehabilitated by the romantics, especially as a form of national culture, and found its place in children's literature in full development. The tale offers examples of family life, and joins here one of the major concerns of educators in the first half of the century.
In addition, it is linked to the social position given to the child. Authors and publishers are constantly reworking and shortening texts to suit readers of various ages.
Oral versions continue to circulate, however, and Perrault's versions are among the most frequently cited from the time his collection was adopted in primary education in 1888.
The magic of the story
The two paintings proposed are two genre scenes giving a different image of the moment of the story. Paupion's work takes up the traditional iconography of the old woman with the spinning wheel, notably inscribed on the frontispiece of the first edition of Perrault's tales, in 1697. As recalled by the symbolic presence of the spinning wheel, the storyteller unwinds the thread of the story . In the background, in the middle of the composition, are a small pot of butter and a pancake, recalling two characteristic details of the Little Red Riding Hood. The light undoubtedly comes from a fireplace located off-screen to the right, and this iconographic absence gives the scene a magical dimension.
The painting by Léonie Michaud, for its part, represents an opulent bourgeois interior. This time, the storyteller wears glasses and uses an illustrated book as a narrative support. The status of the old woman in the previous table remained ambiguous, the grandmother having above all the function of evoking tradition, of referring to nurses and servants, these women who passed on the stories. Here, on the other hand, Léonie Michaud shows a family unit bringing together three generations. By the light source coming from the center of the table, she precisely situates the story in the evening, after the meal (as evidenced by the still full plates and the napkins on the chairs), at the time of the vigil, during this ritual which brings together the family around the table, near the oil lamp, to look at the pictures and comment on them, while the parents read to the younger children or tell them about the adventures they have just read.
Orality and writing
Paupion's painting emphasizes the ancestral oral character of the transmission of history, in an allusive setting, and thus attests to a practice that is still alive. At the same time, the stripping of the frame, the presence of a few symbolic objects and the magic of the enigmatic light source mean that the viewer is instantly transported into the universe of the tale rather than that of the story. On the contrary, Léonie Michaud’s work takes the party to show a social practice specific to the 19th century.
- tale (story)
Once upon a time ... Fairy tales, Catalog of the exhibition of the National Library of France from March 20 to June 17, 2001, Paris, Seuil / Bnf, 2001.Guglielmo CAVALLO and Roger CHARTIER (dir.), History of reading in the western world, Paris, Seuil, 2001.
To cite this article
Cécile PICHON-BONIN, "The tale: between orality and writing"