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Old Masters, Allegory, Fables, Frog & Ox, La Fontaine, Antique Print, Italy, 1805


Barlow (after)
Lasinio R. Frof. (engraver)
La Ranocchia, ed il Bove [The Frog and the Ox]
Gioccino Moro, Florence, Italy: 1805
Engraving on paper
9 x 12.5 inches, plate mark
11.25 x 14.5 inches. overall

Illustration of a fable by the French poet Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695) about an envious frog inflating itself in a vain effort to make itself as large as an ox. A child watches the scene from the barn window in the upper left corner.

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Printed below the picture is a version of the story in Italian:

La Ranocchia, ed il Bove

Che si che in un momento
Grossa ancor io divento.
[illegible] dispetto di Giove
Quanto e grosso quel Bove?

Vedi follia curiosa
Di Ranocchia invidiosa!
Pure a tentar si pone
Lo strano paragone;

E pettoruta e tronfia
[illegible] gonfia e rigonfia;
Tanto alfin si gonfiò.
Che [illegible]

O tu che al grande agogni, e sei meschino — leggi nella ranocchia il suo destino.

The first verse recounts the frog’s boasts, the second comments on the “curious madness of the jealous frog” and the third describes how it puffs itself up until it explodes. Beneath them is the moral of the story: “Oh you who aspire to be great and are lowly, read in the frog your destiny.” The original de La Fontaine fable as translated by Norman R. Shapiro into English underscores the message of the tale as showing the foolishness of trying to impress others with wealth and power you do not really have:

The Frog Who Would Grow As Big as the Ox (Book I, 3)

A frog espies an ox
Of elegant dimension.
Herself no bigger than an egg, she gapes and gawks
In envy at this grandeur. Her intention?
To grow as huge as he. And so,
Huffing and puffing, all a-fuss, a-fret,
She asks: “Look, sister, have I done it?” “No!”
“And now?” “Nay, nay!” “There! Have I yet?”
“Not even close!” The paltry mite — galled, goaded —
Swelled up so well that she exploded.

This world of ours is full of foolish creatures too:
Commoners want to build chateaus;
Each princeling wants his royal retinue;
Each count, his squires. And so it goes.

Condition: Generally very good with usual expected wear, soiling and toning. Some words in the verse below the image worn to the point of illegibility.


Jean de la Fontaine, Norman R. Shapiro, trans. The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2007. p. 6.

Additional information


19th Century