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Plan de la Lune de Miel. (Retrouvé dans les cartons de feu de Mlle de Scudery )

  • Author: Honoré de Balzac
  • Publisher: Chlendowski
  • Engraver: Charles Albert D'Arnoux (Bertall)
  • Date: 1846
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 16.4 x 25 cms.


An unusual map of the land of “Honey Moon”, an illustration for 1846 edition of Balzac’s “Petites Misères de la Vie conjugale”

About this piece:

Plan de la Lune de Miel. (Retrouvé dans les cartons de feu de Mlle de Scudery )

Uncoloured. Fine condition.

French cartoonist & illustrator Charles Albert D’Arnoux [1820-1882], who worked under the pen name “Bertall” (a anagram of his second name), produced this unusual cartographic moonscape, the land of Honeymoon (La Lune de Miel) as an illustration for an early edition of Honoré de Balzac’s novel, Petites Misères de la Vie Conjugale [Paris, 1846].

Charles Albert, Vicomte D’Arnoux, Comte de Limoges Saint-Saëns, was born in 1820. His family anticipated an education in the Ecole Polytechnique, but Bertall instead chose a career in art, studying for some time in the studio of artist Martin Drolling [1786-1851], before pursuing a career as a commercial artist and illustrator of novels and magazines. It was in 1843 that Bertall and Balzac first met, and it is said that it was Balzac who suggested the double-L ending to the pseudonym which Bertall had first used in 1844 with just the single L. In the same year Bertall also began working with Parisian editor Furne, who was the publisher of Balzac’s Comédie Humaine. Balzac liked Bertall’s work and asked the editor to offer him more work, which resulted in Bertall’s cooperation with fellow artist Gavarni in the illustration of Diable de Paris [1844-45]. In February 1845, Hugo signed a contract with another Parisian publisher, Chlendowski, to produce a serialised edition of his latest novel, Petites Misères de la Vie Conjugale, to be issued in 50 separate parts (at 30 centimes each) between July 1845 and August 1846 and to also publish a full single volume edition of the work in 1846. As Bertall would later record of his conversation with Hugo on news of the proposed book:

Mon petit me me dit il, je fais un livre pour vous…..je veux que mettiez là-dedans des dessins, énormément de dessins.

Now young sir, he said to me, I have a book for you…I’d like you to fill it with illustrations, lots & lots of illustrations….

The resulting Chlendowski edition of the work was published in 1846 and contained 50 full page illustrations and some 310 in-text vignettes, all by Bertall.

Balzac [1799-1850], though a confirmed bachelor, in his literary output, found frequent inspiration in the theme of marriage. This was one of his last books on the subject, describing the trials and tribulations of everyday married life in the household of Caroline and Adolphe.

Bertall’s entrée into the world of commercial illustration coincided with a new lease of life for the French novel during this mid-19th Century period in which the illustration played an increasingly important role. Bertall’s designs comprised a mixture of full page illustrations and in-text vignettes. The latter tended to offer direct references to the thread and story of the accompanying text, whilst the former, often genre scenes, portrait and character sketches, and other allegorical or imaginary designs, such as this, offered a broader visual mis-en-scène and contextual backdrop to the novel, not directly connected or linked to the text, but through which it was hoped the imagination of the reader might be further engaged and excited. It was a formula that was to prove immensely popular and produced an explosion in such illustrated novels in France during this mid 19th Century period. Between 1849 and 1855 Bertall worked closely with the publisher Gustave Barba in the illustration of the 30 volume series, les Romans populaires illustrés. In 1855 he contributed illustrations for the complete works of Victor Hugo, edited by Houssiaux.

Bertall places the land of honeymoon on the Moon itself, which appears to moving through the skies under its own steam, literally, powered by a pair of feathered wings and an internal engine, from whose tall chimney pours a trail of smoke. One small winged cherub crouches on the top of the Moon,  nibbling on sweet morsels, one hand preparing a love dart from a store of such missiles. The landscape of the land of Honeymoon is distinctive – on the left, the Mountains of Pride or Self-Love ( Montagnes de l’amour-propre ), on the right, the Sea of Bitterness (L’Amer (a pun on La Mer)). Situated between Satisfactions (Gratifications) and Eblouissement (Dazzlement) the central zone is flanked on two sides by large expanses of woodland, entitled  Bois de Lit (Bed Wood) and Fôrets des Découvertes (Forest of Discoveries). Bordering the southern fringes of the Bois de Lot, the Lac de Miel (The Lake of Honey) into whose waters empties the Source de Plasir (The Spring of Pleasure). Other nearby settlements include Empressement (Alacrity), Reconnaissance (Gratitude), Attentions Fines (Refined Respects), Petits Soins (Small Cares), Surprises (Surprises), Désir de Savoir (Love of Knowledge), Instinct de Jeunesse (Youthful Instinct), Curiosité (Curiosity) and Nouveauté (Novelty). This same central zone is encircled by a cordon fortifications, designated Chateaux en Espagne (Castles in the Air).

In the final lines of his earlier work, Physiologie du marriage [1829], Balzac had noted that “Le Lit est tout le marriage” (the bed is the whole of a marriage), so it is perhaps no surprise to find here the capital of Honeymoon represented by the imposing presence of a large four-poster bed, enclosed by curtains, an explicit acknowledgement  perhaps of this central yet very private feature of married life.

Bertall’s subtitle, suggesting that this plan had been found amongst the papers of Mlle de Scudery, appears to have been a simple literary device, perhaps trying to suggest this imaginary map’s own place in the cartographic line of succession following on from Mlle de Scudery’s imaginary Map of the Pays du Tendre of two hundred years earlier. Whilst several of the place names on the Lune de Miel might follow and replicate those found on de Scudery’s original map of the Pays du Tendre, there seems no other evident link or connection, either stylistically or thematically, between the two  excepting, of course, their respective use of the format of an imaginary map to examine the theme of relationships between men and women, the former marital, the latter platonic & galant.

Examples of this early 1846 illustrated edition of Balzac’s novel appear to be quite scarce and, as a result, examples of Bertall’s Lune de Miel are rarely offered as a loose sheet illustration.

Refs Segolène le Men: Balzac, Gavarni, Bertall et les Petites Misères de la vie conjugale [ Romantisme, Vol 14, No. 43 [1984], pp.29-44 ]; Franz Reitinger : Mapping Relationships: Allegory, Gender and the Cartographical Image in Eighteenth Century France and England, in: Imago Mundi 51 [1999], pp.106-130, esp. Fig 1 & pp.107-108.