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Thursday 11 January 2018

Alphonse Legros’ etching, “Death in the Pear Tree”, c1869

Alphonse Legros (1837–1911)

“La Légende du Bonhomme Misère” (aka “Death in the Pear Tree”), c1869, plate 13, illustration for “Bonhomme Misère” published by Alfred Cadart (1828–75) (as lettered on the plate) in “L'Eau Forte” (1889?) and in Philip Gilbert Hamerton’s (1834–94) 1880 edition of “Etching and Etchers.”

Etching with light plate tone on cream laid paper with margins and deckle edges (as published).
Size: (sheet with irregular deckle edge) 30.4 x 21.5 cm; (plate) 22.6 x
Numbered on plate within the image borderline: (upper right corner) “13”
Inscribed on plate within the image borderline: (lower right) “A Legros”
Lettered on plate below the image borderline: (left) “A. Legros, del. et sc.”; (centre) “LA LÉGENDE DU BONHOMME MISÈRE.”; (right) “Vve A. Cadart, Edit. Imp. 56, Bard Haussmann, Paris.”
State iv (of iv?)

Malassis & Thibaudeau 1877 140.IV (Auguste Poulet-Malassis & Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau 1877, “Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Alphonse Legros”, Paris); Legros 140 (Alphonse Legros 1837, Catalogue [see BM])

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Plate 13: Death in pear tree stealing fruit, old man below to left looking up in astonishment; illustration to the legend of 'Bonhomme Misère'; published in 'L'Eau Forte'."

Condition: richly inked and well-printed impression with margins in very good condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, but there are a few light brown marks that are mainly visible verso).

I am selling this strong etching by Legros that is one of his most famous for the combined total cost of AU$200 (currently US$157.47/EUR130.76/GBP116.42 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested this masterwork by Legros and a very influential print in the 19th century, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Regarding the curious subject of the Grim Reaper (Death) perched up in a pear tree brandishing what I assume is his scythe at an astonished and bemused elderly peasant below, I will offer my understanding of the ancient French fable ...

Let me first say that this old man (Bonhomme Misère) at the base of the tree is cunning and deserves a medal. The reason is that many years earlier he cared for St Peter and St Paul and in return he was granted a single wish. Unlike most greedy chaps who might have asked for money or someone that walks in stilettos, Misère asks only that anyone who climbs up his pear tree cannot come down from the tree without his permission.

To cut the story short, the Grim Reaper visits Misère and, being a hospitably generous chap Misère suggests that the Death might like a pear from his tree … I probably don’t need to explain more of the story beyond the fact that Misère has a VERY long life and Death had lots of pears to eat for eternity.

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