It’s a Doll’s Life: The Album des jeunes Demoiselles by Edmond Morin

Edmond Morin, the nineteenth century French painter, watercolorist, illustrator, and engraver, is associated closely with the designs on Paris fashion he contributed to Le Monde illustre and La Vie Parisienne during the 1860s.  He also illustrated children’s books for the leading French publishers Hetzel and Hachette and created comic strips for the periodical Le semaine des enfants  like “L’ Histoire de la queue d’un chien,” in which a boy tried to defend his dog from an aggressive giant lobster. Cotsen has some nice examples of Morin’s lithographed picture books, including an alphabet, a book of trades, and editions of Perrault’s fairy tales and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

Morin’s Album des jeunes demoiselles (Paris: Aubert & Cie, ca. 1845?) is quite beguiling.  He drew fashionably dressed little girls fishing by the side of a river, being ambushed by geese while sitting under a shady tree, drinking milk from a bucket with the cow and milk maid watching, circle-dancing on the grass, and tending flower gardens.  The beautiful hand-colored lithographic plates were produced by the same firm who printed  the works of Daumier and other famous satirists of the day.

Morin devoted many of the plates in the book to pictures of girls and their dolls. It would be interesting to know if he drew from life or was well-acquainted with the ways of little girls, having been a brother, cousin, uncle, or father.  Here the carriage waits for Madam, who is escorted down the stairs by two young ladies.  It looks like a lovely afternoon for a drive.

The tall, slender doll in a pink gown and modest white cap makes her devotions kneeling before a chair.   A pair of girls observe her.  They whisper approvingly, “See how good she is,”  but their ensembles suggest they pay far more attention to their clothes than the states of their souls .

This doll is dwarfed by her  crib with the rose canopy.  She dozes, oblivious to the girls working hard overhead on her trousseau.

A carefully dressed doll artfully propped up on the sofa, is an excellent subject for a sketch.

Polichinelle goes down on one knee to propose marriage to the doll he simply cannot imagine life without.  The girl in the yellow hat looks as if she worries that the match will not be especially advantageous.  He is so ugly.  And his shoes….

Are the girls taking turns playing the school mistress, so they all have a chance to discipline the poor doll?  Surely none of them have ever been guilty of neglecting their lessons and made to wear the donkey’s ears…


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