Versified Prints

Versified Prints: A Literary and Cultural Phenomenon in Eighteenth-Century France

W. McALLISTER JOHNSON
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt13x1q5r
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  • Book Info
    Versified Prints
    Book Description:

    Proposing a typology and methodology for this artistic phenomenon,Versified Printsenhances our knowledge of this fascinating new area of research and lays the groundwork for future studies.

    Disclaimer: Images removed at the request of the rights holder.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6598-9
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 The Phenomenon Defined
    (pp. 3-10)

    Every so often one runs across a phenomenon so daunting in prospect that it seems impossible to work through it in the short term. Versified prints fall into this category. They attract notice, and finding where they lead requires more than passing curiosity. The more one finds, the more the concept appears diffuse, even impenetrable since the quality is so uneven. Even when the phenomenon was remarked, often it was, as with Nicolas IV de Larmessin’sQuatre Heures du Jourafter Lancret, by particular type or context only: ‘Il était d’usage de mettre alors au bas des estampes un quatrain,...

  5. 2 Methodological Issues
    (pp. 11-22)

    The study of versified prints is fortunately not dependent on archives. These may not exist, have been preserved, or be accessible. Study emanates from the prints themselves, which is to say that it is purely object oriented in its early stages. Publishing the history of the Paris Print Cabinet in 1988 afforded me insights that situated further research and study there.¹ The traditional thrusts of print study can, however, be extended when dealing with versified prints to include the following:

    1 Gestation of a print, normally paid for in three stages or states (eauforte;terminé, yet before-letter;fini). The final...

  6. 3 Poetry as Cultural Expression in Prints
    (pp. 23-31)

    We often forget that poetry was so popular a means of expression that eighteenth-century France may be called the Golden Age of the Epigram. For a fortunate few, amateur verse was paralleled by etching since ‘la manie de signer un paysage, unebergerotterie, était devenue à la mode, comme celle de signer un sonnet.’¹ The newspapers are full of verse forthisperson orthatrumour or event.² So is the better correspondence of personal nature.³ Improvised verse even became an entertainment at the Musée de Paris for an entrance fee of six livres.⁴ That everyone ‘tournoit tout en spectacle,...

  7. 4 Case Studies of Text versus Image
    (pp. 32-55)

    Perhaps the easiest way to understand distinctions and subtleties in versified prints is to give paired prints – identical or categorized images that are differently presented – with a cursory discussion of the issues surrounding the iconography, all of which have to do, albeit in different ways, with the authority of the image. Whoever the author and whatever the rhyme scheme, the verse tends to fall into three modes: declarative (factual or descriptive), speculative (scenes or situations), and vocative (direct address of a protagonist).

    By verse is meant occasional poetry created for a print as opposed to the citation of existing verse...

  8. 5 Cautionary Notes
    (pp. 56-62)

    Our most basic and reliable information concerning the attribution, fabrication, and perhaps the dating of a print is derived from its lower margins, in the print letter. This may be supplemented by anecdotal details supplied by the annonces, and by other contemporary sources. Both, however, represent the very last stages of printmaking, that is, when the print is issued and subjected to critical discussion. The early stages – planning and execution – are a series of choices and alternatives that are usually known only through workshop (trial or artist’s) proofs, which were not necessarily meant to survive. As illustration, four prints serve...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 63-67)

    Whatever their subject, whoever their sitter (for portraits), versified prints were historical documents at the subconscious level. They transmitted an image along with the voice of their creators, not only to their contemporaries but to posterity. They shared a perishable support – paper – with other poetic genres but had the singular advantage of appearing in the form ofindividual sheets. These could be continually restruck because the economics of their reprinting were different from those of books. As a result, prints remained a ‘disposable’ that was constantly renewed, recirculated, and re-experienced. As with books, they could be searched out by author,...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 68-70)

    The versified print did not disappear with the advent of the French Revolution (1789–99). How it was subsequently used and how often changed in the prints that were revolutionary in subject or time.¹ Didactic and political applications tend to shorter and unsigned verse. The rapidly evolving political situation meant the virtual disappearance of versified pendant prints as well. Adaptations of traditional airs continued unabated, sometimes with overtly scatological content reinforced by an ingenious cartouche – an iconographical substitute for armorials – such as that for Villeneuve’sLe Trium-Geusat(fig. 99). Whether these prints should be considered apart from or...

  11. Excursus: Music and Theatre Prints
    (pp. 71-74)

    One class of prints stands apart because of its intimate relation to poetry: prints derived from or inspired by music and theatre – perhaps both when a double derivation exists. We must then ask who, at the time, could have been ignorant of contemporary musical libretti when viewing a composition, reading a citation, or remarking a print title? Incipits, all-important for verse created to accompany models of disparate origin (usually paintings and drawings), are of no real use. What is needed is a number of quoted lines sufficient to recognize such sources. But how do such ‘prompts’ work when they appear...

  12. Appendix A: Some Print Versifiers
    (pp. 75-81)
  13. Appendix B: Moraine as Versifier for Painters, Draughtsmen, and Engravers
    (pp. 82-84)
  14. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 85-108)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 109-116)
  17. Index / Glossary
    (pp. 117-127)
  18. Index to Illustrations by Engraver
    (pp. 128-129)
  19. Index to Illustrations by Painter or Draughtsman
    (pp. 130-131)