Panel from a Set of Bed Hangings
Printed by Petitpierre Frères et Cie, Nantes, France, 1770 - 1791
This design was the first copperplate print made by the firm Petitpierre in Nantes, France. Its title "Panurge dans l'île des lanternes" (Panurge on the Island of the Lanterns) is taken from the three-act opera by André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741-1813) produced in 1785, which was itself inspired by François Rabelais's novel Gargantua and Pantagruel (1534). In the opera, the librettist Etienne Morel de Chédeville uses a description from Jean Baptiste du Halde's book Description géographique, historique, chronologique, politique et physique de l'empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise (1735) to give the imaginary island inhabited by literary charlatans a fashionable Chinese association. In the textile, these references are subtle: lanterns and several vaguely Chinese-like figures, including one fishing from a bridge.