The case of the fin de siècle fleuron


I said yesterday that poppies are a common feature of the fin de siècle magazines for the convenient way they combine long-stemmed flowers—ideal for all those Art Nouveau flourishes—with narcotic connotations that signal Decadence. The spiralling fleuron above is one example that readers of Savoy books may recognise, an occasional company logo which has been in use since the mid-1980s. David Britton chose the design from one of the Dover Pictorial Archive books, Carol Belanger Grafton’s Treasury of Art Nouveau Design and Ornament, and I later made a digital version from this page scan.


One of the earliest Savoy uses, a label design for Heroes (1986) by PJ Proby.

Having spent a great deal of time in recent years trawling through Art Nouveau magazines I was sure I was going to run into the original printing of the fleuron eventually. Some of the page decorations in Jugend are very similar but it wasn’t there or in Pan, Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration or The Studio. I don’t have a copy of the Grafton book, and Dave says his copy is lost, so I’ve no idea whether there’s a credit for the source of the designs; not all Dover books credit their source material in any detail. Earlier this week I decided to look in Art et Décoration, a magazine that was the French equivalent of The Studio, since the header at the top of the scanned page implied that the other designs might be from the same magazine. Aside from a couple of copies at the Internet Archive this means looking through the poor-quality scans at Gallica; by a fluke—because they don’t seem to have a complete run of the early issues—the January 1898 edition contained the page below showing the Savoy fleuron, an endpiece for an article devoted to another French art magazine, L’Image.


The fleuron is credited to “Drogue”, or Jean-Jacques Drogue (1858–1901), an artist described as a painter, pastellist, draughtsman, illustrator and decorative artist who lived and died in Lyons. L’Image was a magazine devoted to wood engraving so we can assume that Drogue’s fleuron is a woodcut. The magazine only ran from December 1896 to December 1897 but featured contributions from many well-known figures of the period including Alphonse Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Henri Fantin-Latour, Puvis de Chavannes, Georges de Feure and Auguste Rodin.


With the magazine identified it didn’t take long to find this page from issue 6 of L’Image (May, 1897) which is the original printing of Drogue’s fleuron. This is another poor scan from the Gallica archives but it did at least fix the source.


Monsieur Drogue also designed the cover of this issue, and managed to put more poppies at the foot of the page; it seems apt that his surname translates as “drug”. There’s no way of knowing what Drogue might have thought about a minor piece of his work having such a curious afterlife but then posterity is always beyond our control. For my part it’s been good to be able to credit his decoration after all this time.


Previously on { feuilleton }
Album de la décoration
L’art dans la décoration extérieure des livres
Art et Décoration
Combinaisons Ornementales

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading