Lot 6
  • 6

Jean-Baptiste Oudry

18,000 - 22,000 USD
50,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean-Baptiste Oudry
  • Les Souris et le Chat-Huant
  • Point of the brush and gray wash and black ink, heightened with white, on blue paper, within a painted mount;signed and dated, lower left: JB. Oudry / 1733
  • 242 by 191 mm; 9½ by 7½ in


For the complete set of drawings from which this originates:
sold by the artist around 1751 to M. de Montenault, Paris, publisher of the folio edition;
J.-J. de Bure, Paris, 1828,
his sale, 1-18 December 1853, lor 344 (for 1,800 FF);
Count Adolphe-Narcisse Thibaudeau, Paris,
by whom given to the celebrated actress, Mme. Doche, 
by whom sold to the bookseller Fontaine (for 2,500 FF), 
from whom bought by Félix Solar (for 5,000 FF),
his sale, Paris, 19 November-8 December 1860, lot 627 (to M. Cléder, acting for Baron Taylor, for 6,100 FF);
with Morgand et Fatout, Paris booksellers, circa 1876 (acquired from Baron Taylor?),
by whom sold to Emile Péreire, Paris,
by whom sold to Louis Roederer, Reims
from whose estate acquired by Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, 1923,
from whom purchased by Raphael Esmerian, New York circa 1946,
his sale, Paris, Palais Galliera, 6 June 1973, lot 46 (2,000,000 FF.),
after which the first volume was sold to the British Rail Pension Fund and the second was dismembered and the pages sold separately This drawing:
Dr. Claus Virch, 
from whom acquired in 1979


For the very extensive literature on the whole group of drawings, see H. Opperman, Jean Baptiste Oudryop.cit., below, and also sale catalogue, Sotheby's London, 3 July 1996, under lot 96;
J. Locquin, Catalogue Raisonné de l'Oeuvre de Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755) (Archives de l'art français, vol. VI), Paris 1912, pp. 152-163, cat. no. 1168;
H.N. Opperman, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Chicago 1977, vol. I, pp. 99-101, vol. II, p. 706, cat no. D455;
H.N. Opperman, J.-B. Oudry, exhib. cat., Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris 1982, pp. 157-9

Catalogue Note

Between 1729 and 1734, while he was employed at the Beauvais factory on designs for a series of tapestries, Oudry also executed 275 drawings illustrating the Fables of La Fontaine. Gougenot gives a romantic account of the artist working on the drawings late at night after his days at the factory, and these nocturnal endeavours, as Opperman notes, have "done more to establish the image of Oudry that has come across the years, than any others of his production". The fable illustrated here describes how an owl, too lazy to pursue mice on the wing, bites their legs off, but then keeps them, well fed, in the trunk of the tree that is his home, to dine on at his pleasure. Just as Lafontaine told his rather gruesome story in beautiful verses, so Oudry, very typically, gives no hint, in his charming and decorative image, of the sinister side of the tale he is illustrating, making his image all the more powerful, when contrasted with the text of the fable.

In 1752 Oudry sold the complete set of drawings to Montenault (see provenance), who announced their forthcoming publication, engaging Charles-Nicolas Cochin the Younger to produce copies of Oudry's freely drawn originals for the engravers.  Appearing in four volumes between 1755 and 1759, the Montenault edition of La Fontaine is widely recognised as a monument of 18th-century French book illustration.

Around 1755-60, the original Oudry drawings were bound into two albums, the first of which has remained intact, in its original dark blue calf binding, labelled on the spine: DESSINS DES/FABLES DE LA/FONTAINE PAR/I.D. OUDRY/PREMIERE PARTIE.1   The second album, from which the Barnet drawing originates, was broken up after the Esmerian sale in 1973.  Having spent more than two centuries in the safety of the bound album, this drawing is in pristine condition, the blue paper retaining all its vibrant original color.  All the drawings in the series were also attached, presumably either by Oudry himself or by Montenault, to a distinctive, rich blue mount, which has not always survived intact, but here remains in perfect, original condition. 

1. Sold, London, Sotheby's, 3 July 1996, lot 96