MOUCHOIR DES CONNAISSANCES UTILES. Résumé des Meilleures recettes indispensables a tous les ménages. Manufacture de E. Renault, A Rouen A. Buquet. Des et Gravs. Archives Musés de l’Impression sur Etoffe de Mulhouse. [n.d.
but ca. 1940-50s?]. Large cotton engraved handkerchief printed in red and black, 680 x 750mm, with 32 square engraved vignettes each with accompanying panel of advice below, all within a decorative border; with one or two small pin holes and some very minor fraying, but with no significant loss; upper and lower edges neatly hemmed; overall a striking example. An attractive, though we believe much later reproduction example, printed in red and black on cotton, of one of a series of brightly coloured and practical instructional handkerchief, originally produced in Rouen by the Buquet family. The present example provides 32 useful household hints and ‘receipts’, giving advice on a range of domestic situations, including a quick way to leaven bread, a means of preserving artichokes throughout the year, a recipe for an almond hand-cream, one for cleaning copper, on the care of lace, a cure for toothache, as well as a recipe to kill rats.
The present example has the additional stamp at the tail ‘Archives Musée de l’Impression sur Etoffe de Mulhouse’, and which therefore leads us to believe that this is, in fact, a later 20th reproduction. The Museum of Printing on Fabrics is the most important textile image archive in the world, holding over 6 million motifs and original plates and blocks. It is our belief, from the inclusion of the stamp, and from the crispness of the fabric, that the present example has been drawn using the original plate in the archive, possibly for display in an exhibition on the history of textile printing. Whilst only a reproduction, however, it is nevertheless of interest, in terms of the ethics and practice of reusing plates well after original production, and the matter of ownership and rights. The present example has been removed from an old mounted frame of at least 50 years old. Attempts to confirm this with the Museum have so far drawn a blank.
Handkerchiefs remained a luxury article well into the seventeenth century, after which time, the growing fashion for snuff-taking increased the need for more practical handkerchiefs. It was at this point that pictorial, or commemorative handkerchiefs were introduced. Often headscarf size, the images depicted record many of the major events of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, with wars, travel, politics, scandal, satire, notable events, famous people, and royal occasions all commemorated. As the present example demonstrates, it was a fashion that was to prove equally popular in Europe, and especially in France, with Rouen become somewhat of a hub for their manufacture. The first known Rouennais commemorative handkerchiefs date from around 1835-1845, and in many ways are the fabric equivalent of the Épinal prints, made famous by the Épinal printing house of Charles Pellerin, and which depicted popular subjects in bright sharp colours. As in England, the most entrepreneurial printers at the heart of this trade were often map sellers, with the advantages of a map on silk or linen versus a map on paper self-evident. Between 1830 and 1905 the Buquet’s engraved over 300 such examples, on a range of topics including politics, military instruction (amongst the more popular and reprinted), humourous, commemorative, and practical, as demonstrated here. Whilst often intended to be worn around the neck, they could also be displayed on a wall, or carried on one’s person to reference. This most practical and portable guide was one of the more enduring examples, first published in around 1840 and which was frequently reprinted over the years.