Right-ho, we’re all relatively familiar with the story of the ant and the grasshopper, wherein the grasshopper plays the violin instead of farming, I guess, and then in the winter the ant reminds him that you have to farm if you want to live through the solstice, and everyone’s happy, or starves to death. The point is, it’s about a grasshopper and an ant; which apparently no one explained to Jean De La Fontaine or the entire nation of France, because here is a painting about The Grasshopper and The Ant. Can you spot what’s missing?
Because of the influence of La Fontaine’s Fables, in which La cigale et la fourmi stands at the beginning, the cicada then became the proverbial example of improvidence in France: so much so that Jules-Joseph Lefebvre (1836–1911) could paint a picture of a female nude biting one of her nails among the falling leaves and be sure viewers would understand the point by giving it the title La Cigale. The painting was exhibited at the 1872 Salon with a quotation from La Fontaine, Quand la bise fut venue (When the north wind blew), and was seen as a critique of the lately deposed Napoleon III, who had led the nation into a disastrous war with Prussia.
“So much so that Jules-Joseph Lefebvre (1836–1911) could paint a picture of a female nude biting one of her nails among the falling leaves and be sure viewers would understand the point by giving it the title La Cigale.”
A of all what, B of 2 QUELLE, C of thirds OKAY?? “You know how improvidence is a grasshopper or a nude woman biting her nails, right?” “Definitely, Jacques.” “Oh, but it’s also Napoleon.” “Assuredly so, Desmondes.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.