Tag Archives: Grandville

Grandville as the sorcerer-priest of commodity fetishism

"Les poisson d’avril" (1844) by Grandville, see April fish

“Les poisson d’avril” by Grandville from Another World

Following yesterday’s post[1] on Un autre monde, I’ve been cleaning up my copy of the full text of that fantastic book and furthering my research on it and Grandville (1803 – 1847) in general.

Kindred spirits

The only person coming close in sheer absurdity to Grandville in the Anglophone world is Edward Lear (1812 – 1888) of whom I recently posted his Walking Fish[2].

Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin on Grandville

To my surprise, Baudelaire doesn’t care for Grandville nor his work, literally saying “there are superficial people who find Grandville entertaining; as for me, he scares me.” (translation mine, see Baudelaire on Grandville).

The philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) saw in Grandville’s drawings, especially in Another World, a glorification of commodity fetishism: “The enthronement of the commodity … is the secret theme of Grandville’s art” and “if the commodity has become a fetish, Grandville is its sorcerer-priest.” (translation mine)

English translations

There is no public domain translation of the work of Grandville. There is Stanley Appelbaum’s Bizarreries & fantasies of Grandville: 266 illustrations from Un autre monde and Les animaux (Dover Publications, 1974, 1987).

Commodity fetishism?

Commodity fetishism was of great interest to me in the early 2000s, when I discovered the work of Walter Benjamin. I’m happy to have found a drawing that is proof of Grandville’s status as “sorcerer-priest of commodity fetishism.” The plate is called “Les poisson d’avril” (lit: The April Fishes, but actually French for ‘April Fools’ Day’) [3] in the chapter UN VOYAGE D’AVRIL and depicts fish fishing for humans in an enchanted wood. On their hooks are the commodity fetishes such as “diamants, … croix d’honneur, épaulettes, bourses d’or.” (“diamonds … a cross of honor, epaulettes and gold purses.”).

If you want to browse the on-line version with illustrations, here is the link[4].

There is another world, but it is in this one

Aquatic plants, seashells and madrepores (Aquatic plants, seashells and madrepores) is a plate from Un autre monde by French illustrator Grandville (1803 – 1847).

The illustration alludes to man copying the patterns of nature, like crystallization and petrifaction.

The title of this post “There is another world, but it is in this one” is attributed both to W. B. Yeats (1865 – 1939) and French poet Paul Éluard (1895 – 1952) (as “Il y a un autre monde mais il est dans celui-ci”).

Previously on Tumblr: Crystallised Minerals by Alexandre Isidore Leroy de Barde.