As I mentioned yesterday, there are plenty of interesting things to see at the musée des Arts Décoratifs at the moment. I really enjoyed going back to my childhood at Les Histoires de Babar. Babar was “born” in 1931 when Jean de Brunhoff illustrated the story of a little elephant who became a king. His wife, Cécile, had told their children at bedtime. The exhibit had Babar memorabilia from the 81 years of the pachyderm’s colorful life, including a life-sized “costume d’une agreeable couleur verte” (kostoom doon agrayabluh kooluhr verte), which means “suit of an agreeable green color.”
Laurent de Brunhoff took over the series after the early death of his father. I haven’t followed it in many, many years. I didn’t know he’d even added a new little baby to the elephant family. There’s a charming interview with the now-elderly artist who explained how his whole life has been absorbed with and by Babar. He said he’s been “babarisé” or “Babarized.” I saw lots of kids visiting the exhibit with the parents, and lots of adults visiting on their own. Everyone had a little smile. We’d all been babarisé.
Frankly, the Trompe l’oeil exhibit wouldn’t be worthy of the price of admission if that’s all that was on offer at the museum, but it was an agreeable side-event. The exhibit looked at all different examples of the way in which our eyes are fooled, from ancient frescoes to modern advertising. The technique really exploded in the Baroque period with the refinement of perspective painting and chiaroscuro. I was amused at the faux cul (fake fanny) used to full out late 19th century dresses. Padded fannies are apparently back in style, which boggles my mind, since I’ve always been willing to share slices of mine, if only that were possible. If you’re at the museum, stroll through the long gallery and then get some lunch. But lunch is a story for another day.
- Professor Christian Halliburton: “The Travels of Babar” by Jean de Brunhoff (lawlibraryblog.seattleu.edu)