Every flower needs a dream

Modern Books and Manuscripts 2012-11-07

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

Les fleurs animées is a beautiful lithographic collection in two volumes that was illustrated in the mid 19th-century by J.J. Grandville, whose real name was Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard.  The book imagines a world where the flowers are able to reclaim the meanings bestowed upon them by a covetous Victorian audience and thus they go out into the world to pursue a dream other than simple adornment.  They long to experience life so they ask the Flower Fairy to allow them to assume human form.   A translation of their plea reads,

For thousands of years we have supplied mankind with their themes of comparison; we alone have given them all their metaphors; indeed, without us poetry could not exist. Men lend to us their virtues and their vices; their good and their bad qualities; it is time that we should have some experience of what these are.

So off they go to become nuns, teachers, fortune-tellers, village maidens, and nurses.

Grandville initially gained notice with his lithographic collection Les Métamorphoses du jour, a series of scenes in which individuals with the bodies of men and faces of animals are made to play a human comedy.  He is often credited with being a precursor to the Surrealist movement.  Grandville’s skill in representing human characteristics in animal features brought him success and led to his contribution to a number of French periodicals.  Through this work he became known for his satirical political caricatures and an extremely popular illustrator.  However the return of censorship in 1835 forced him to return to mainly book illustration where he worked on many of the greats like Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson CrusoeDuring this time Grandville continued to publish beautiful lithographic collections like Les fleurs animées. (Paris: Gabriel de Gonet, [ca. 1847]).  NC248.G7 F63 1847.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, for contributing this post.