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Plate with decoration from the Fables de la Fontaine: Le Rat et l'Eléphant

19th c
1 in. x 8 1/4 in. (2.54 cm x 20.96 cm)

French faience, Montereau, France, French, (active 18th Century–20th Century)

Object Type: Ceramic
Creation Place: Europe, France, Montereau
Medium and Support: Faience
Credit Line: Gift of the Marie W. Forrest Trust
Accession Number: 2006.16

The image on this plate is from Jean de La Fontaine's Fables, the story of "The Rat and the Elephant." While La Fontaine's sophisticated messages were written in light verse, the fables were intended as social commentary and moral instruction as well as personal enjoyment.

"The rat, thinking itself important, was soon to find that it was not mighty at all"

The French poet Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) wrote in the tradition of Aesop, telling anecdotal stories using a range of animals including sly foxes, scheming cats, vain birds, greedy wolves, along with human characters, to express his insights into the society of his era. LA Fontaine’s sophisticated messages were written in light verse but were intended as social commentary and moral instruction, like The Rat and the Elephant: “The rat, thinking itself important, was soon to find that it was not mighty at all.” La Fontaine’s career and writing overlapped that of French author Charles Perrault (1628-1703) who also adapted and rewrote eleven tales, published in 1697 near the end of his life including Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella. Perrault’s Red Riding Hood is the earliest known printed version of an oral tale. Perrault’s publication marked the beginning of a new literary genre, the fairy tale. The Museum’s collection of faience includes two fables by Jean de La Fontaine and six of the original eleven fairy tales by Perrault. Visit the Ceramics Collection online at, or, the kiosk in the museum to see all of the faience plates. The faience manufactory at Montereau produced these plates in glazed earthenware with a series of transfer printed illustrations from the fables.

Object Description
Yellow glazed plate with scene depicting Le Rat et l'Elephant (the Rat and the Elephant).

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  • H: 1; Diam: 8 1/4 inches Dimensions: 1 x 8 1/4 in. (2.54 x 20.96 cm)

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