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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850)


From “Droll Stories”

WHEN Queen Catherine was princess royal, to make herself welcome to the king, her father-in-law, who at that time was very ill indeed, she presented him from time to time with Italian pictures, knowing that he liked them much, being a friend of Sire Raphael d’Urbino and of the Sires Primaticcio and Leonardo da Vinci, to whom he sent large sums of money. She obtained from her family a precious picture, painted by a Venetian named Titian (painter to the Emperor Charles, and in very high favor), in which there were portraits of Adam and Eve at the moment when God left them to wander about the terrestrial paradise. They were painted full height, in the costume of the period, in which it is difficult to make a mistake, because they were attired in their ignorance, and caparisoned with the divine grace which enveloped them—a difficult thing to execute on account of the color, but one in which the said Sire Titian excelled. The picture was put into the room of the poor king, who was then ill with the disease of which he eventually died. It had a great success at the Court of France, where every one wished to see it; but no one was able to until after the king’s death, since at his desire it was allowed to remain in his room as long as he lived.

One day Catherine took with her to the king’s room her son Francis and little Margy, who began to talk at random, as children will. Now here, now there, these children had heard this picture of Adam and Eve spoken about, and had tormented their mother to take them to see it. Since the two little ones sometimes amused the old king, the princess royal complied with their request.

“You wished to see Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; there they are,” said she.

Then she left them in great astonishment before Titian’s picture, and seated herself by the bedside of the king, who delighted to watch the children.

“Which of the two is Adam?” said Francis, nudging his sister Margaret’s elbow.

“You silly,” replied she, “they would have to be dressed for one to know that!”