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Monument consacré a la posterité en memoire de la folie incroyable de la XX année du XVIII siècle 1720

Bernard Picart

* 1673 in Paris † 1733 in Amsterdam

Engraving and etching. Size of sheet: 31.8 x 43.8 cm.

Literature:          Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid , Amsterdam 1720 (No.35);

Stephens, Frederic, Political and Personal Satires in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 1873, Vol.2, No.1627.

The present print satirizes the infamous Mississippi scheme started by John Law (1671-1729), a Scottish economist who served as Controller General of Finances under the Duke of Orleans.  Law set up and directed the Mississippi Company, funded by the Banque Royale. Its chaotic collapse has been compared to the 17th-century tulip mania in Holland. The Mississippi bubble coincided with the South Sea bubble in England, which allegedly took ideas from it.

The design represents an open place before the office for selling shares, in the Rue Quinquempoix (now Quincampoix) in Paris. Before this place a great crowd appears; these are gathered about the doorway which is marked “Quinquenpoix”. A chariot presided by a woman in a fool’s cap is dragged by six emblematic figures named “Mer du Sud “. It is preceded by flying Fame with her trumpets. Above, in the air, is the Devil blowing bubbles and riding on a cloud, from which proceed rays of light, these fall on the figure of naked Fortuna, who floats over the chariot.

The prolific artist Bernard Picart was trained in the graphic arts by his father Étienne Picart. In the early 1690s, as a student of Sébastien Le Clerc the Elder, Picart worked in Paris and travelled to Antwerp and Amsterdam in 1696. Following the tragic death of his wife and children in 1708, Picart emigrated from France and settled first in The Hague, and then in Amsterdam. This change brought Picart into the accomplished orbit of Dutch publishing and printmaking, which was then at its zenith, producing both exemplary editorial projects and beautifully illustrated luxury editions.

Combined together with a contemporary copy of this print (engraving, size of sheet: 26.3 x 37.8 cm) which was used as a hand-out flyer to warn the public about the dangers of such schemes. Both of the prints in such form are extremely rare to find.  



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