Category Archive 'La Chasse Renversé'

14 Nov 2011

La Chasse Renversé

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Harry B. Nielson, Mr. Fox’s Hunt Breakfast on Christmas Day, chromolithograph print published in Vanity Fair, Christmas, 1897

The hunter characteristically admires, and even identifies with, his quarry, and that sense of identification commonly leads to the visualization in the hunter’s imagination of the animal object of the chase as a fellow sportsman, participating in the hunt with equal pleasure and enthusiasm and equal relish of tradition.

The fantasy of the quarry-sportsman gives rise to one of the most popular and best-loved genres of sporting art, images of La Chasse Renversé, the roles of hunters and hunted reversed. No foxhunter’s den is completely furnished without a humorous print like A.C. Havell’s Foxhunter’s Dream or the beloved Mr. Fox’s Hunt Breakfast (above).

The same comedic effect, and the same sportsman’s pleasure in thinking of his adversary in the field as fellow sportsman, can be found in shooting prints, like the very well-known contemporary print by Alexander Charles-Jones “Cocks Only,” which gleefully depicts a line of Ringnecked Pheasants in hunting vests, smoking cigars and drinking while peppering a discomfited group of incoming naked men.

Another classic example of the same humorous genre by Snaffles, published in Hoghunter’s Annual in the 1930s, depicts a couple of senior ranking boars smoking cigars and admiring trophy mounts of British officers acquired in the hunting field.

I had assumed, without any special investigation or thought on the matter, that this genre of sporting humor was specifically British and Victorian, but I was decidedly wrong.

What I have referred to as La Chasse Renversé is, at least, a common medieval artistic humorous subject, found in all sorts of forms and expressions, in paintings, sculpture, manuscript illuminations, and even tiles, representing a variation of all kinds of humorous reversals referred to in general as Le Monde Renversé. I feel sure, at this point, that a thorough search would produce similar examples of sporting facetiae from Classical Antiquity.

Some excellent examples of the hare turning the tables on the hunter were posted at Archivalia.

The Hunter’s Doom,” marginal illumination to The Romance of Alexander by Jehan de Grise and his atelier, 1338-44, Bodleiana Ms. 264, fol. 81v

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