Posted by John Bidwell
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 4:01:00 PM
Jean Chenel, sieur de La Chappronnaye (fl. 1614-1617). Les revelations de l’hermite solitaire sur l’estat de la France. Paris: Toussaincts du Braÿ, 1617. Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2011.
In a series of visions, illustrated here, a hermit revealed to the author that the French nation was suffering from a blight of dueling. Too many men of honor had lost their lives — and their souls — because of this debilitating vice. As a valorous alternative, Chenel proposed to found a religious order of high-born knights who would renounce single combat, take vows of chastity and obedience, and dedicate their mastery of the martial arts to more worthy purposes, defending the kingdom and delivering the Holy Land. Not a single nobleman enlisted in his order. Taking his own advice, Chenel retired to a peaceable hermitage in the forest of Fontainbleau, but not without first trying to drum up business with this publication, containing eleven full-page engravings and an emblematic title page. The engraving shown here is an allegory of treason. The hermit looks down on the city of Paris, where a runaway horse symbolizes an enemy of the crown, who is finally brought down by the loyal citizenry and is revealed not to be a horse at all but a far less admirable creature.