Fine Chinese arts and Antiques by Phoenix Asian Art

A Rare Grisaille & Gilt "The Geese of Brother Philip"


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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Chinese: Trade Arts: Pre 1800: Item # 781767
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Circa 1745 Chinese export grisaille plate, painted with central cartouche depicting an elderly man introducing a young man to two ladies, whose servant holds a parasol over their head. Diameter 9 in (22.8 cm) Fine condition, some wear due to the age.

The engraving is after the painting "Les Oies de Frere Phillipe' (The Geese of Brother Philip) by Nicolas Lancret, and illustrates La Fontaine's fable, which was inspired by Boccaccio (following a theme on 'the Power of Nature').

Boccaccio's story tells of the unhappy widower, Filippo Balducci, who takes his young son to live in a cave on the slopes of Mount Asinaio. Occasionally he goes down to Florence to collect provisions alone, but when his son is eighteen, the inexperienced youth asks to accompany his father. He marvels at the houses, palaces and churches and asks his father what they are - being quite satisfied with the reply; then seeing a party of elegant young ladies coming from a wedding he asks about these too.

'My son' replied his father 'keep your eyes fixed on the ground and don't look at them for they are evil.'
'But what are they called, father' inquired his son.
Not wishing to arouse any idle longings in the young man's breast his father avoided calling them by their real name and instead of telling him that they were woman, he said
'They are called goslings.'
Now, the extraordinary thing about it was that the young man, who had never set eyes on one of these objects before, took no further interest in the palaces, the oxen, the horses, the money, or any of the other things he had encountered and promptly replied
'Oh father, do please get me one of those goslings'....

Boccaccio does not himself finish the story, but the engraving after Lancret provided a link with China almost four hundred years later.

Reference: David Howard "China for the West - Chinese Porcelain and other Decorative Arts for Export"
Other examples: Victoria & Albert Museum; Christie's March 2, 1976 - Lot 315.