Delightful late-18th-century hand-colored copperplate engraving showing a scene from the ever-popular book Paul et Virginie by Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, first published on the eve of the French Revolution. This book continues to be widely read and appreciated for its critique of the artificial class divisions found in eighteenth-century France.
While the book has inspired countless images to supplement its fable, even in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, these are one of the earliest engravings produced to accompany the story. This image was engraved by Michel Lambert and based on drawings by Augustin Legrand, and published between 1794 and 1800, in the middle of the French Revolution.
The image shows the departure of Virginie for the island on which most of the story takes place, and where she meets Paul, the other young hero of the story. Several slaves are shown loading the ships, and natural imagery is used.
The highly popular story of Paul et Virginie was popular for providing a Romantic image throughout Europe and suggesting that the French upper classes of the late Ancien Regime were responsible for corrupting the inherently good nature of children.