Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother by Baron Henri de Triqueti (1803-74). 1837. Bronze bas-relief panel on the door of the Madeleine, which presents a series of powerful images to illustrate the Ten Commandments. Place de La Madeleine, Paris. Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee, 2009. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL or cite the Victorian Web in a print document.

This panel takes for its subject the rather obscure episode in Genesis 9, 20-27, in which Noah's son Canaan (on the extreme left) dishonours his father by seeing him uncovered while asleep after drinking. He is cursed by his father, while Canaan's brothers, who had covered their father without looking at him, are given preference to him. As in other panels, the emphasis is on the offender's shame and guilt, and the dismay caused to those around, in this case especially the mother who tries to restrain Noah. An avenging angel is seen above.

As Jonathan Ribner says, the reliefs here are "predominantly devoted to crime and punishment," employing "a vehement emotional rhetoric absent from Triqueti's principal point of reference, the Gates of Paradise of Ghiberti [at the Baptistery in Florence]" (85). The message here as elsewhere is the human cost of lawlessness, the need to support the rule of law as reintroduced by the restored monarchy under Louis-Philippe. But it is impossible to view this scene without feeling sympathy for the young lad still holding the bedcover, against whom Noah's wrath is directed.

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Reference

Ribner, Jonathan P. Broken Tablets: The Cult of the Law in French Art from David to Delacroix. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Available offsite here.


Created 11 August 2016