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A man (Guillaume le franc-parleur) showing his wife a newborn baby: she is torn between outrage at her husband's supposed infidelity and love for the baby. Engraving by A. Coupé after A. Desenne, 1814, after Étienne Jouy.

  • Jouy, Étienne de, 1764-1846.
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The chapter 'Le bureau des nourrices' in 'Guillaume le franc-parleur' (ed. cit., pp. 188-210) by Étienne Jouy starts with a story told by Guillaume ("the plain-speaker") in which he is summoned to a mysterious house, presented to a young woman and given a basket which turns out to contain a baby girl. On returning home to his wife, he shows her the baby: she is shocked and horrified, implicitly believing that her husband is the father. He explains how he came to be in possession of the child, and although his wife at first does not believe his story, she is gradually won over by her feelings of attachment to the baby. This is the subject of the present illustration by Desenne. Guillaume and Madame Guillaume then go to the Bureau des Nourrices in rue Saint Apolline in Paris to find a wet-nurse for the baby. Étienne Jouy then turns the story into a history of breast-feeding in France, from a period when the baby was breast-fed by the mother, to a period when a wet-nurse was employed, and finally, under the influence of Rousseau, back again to maternal breast-feeding. Finally, when Guillaume and Mme Guillaume arrive at the Bureau, there is a long and complimentary description of the institution and of their conversations with the wet-nurses

The Bureau des nourrices described by Étienne Jouy is the municipal office in Paris, founded in 1769: there were other municipal offices in other cities, and in Paris there was competition from private wet-nurses. Owing to deficits in its funding from the city, it depended on charitable support from royal and other sources. It was reformed under the consulate, when it was transferred from the police to the Conseil general des Hospices, which empasized its charitable character: hence the figure of Charity breastfeeding her children at the top of the present print. It was reformed again in 1821 and was abolished in 1876 (Sussman, op. cit.)



Physical description

1 print : stipple engraving, with etching


Le Bureau des nourrices. A. Desenne del. 1814. Coupé sculp.

References note

Jean Adhémar, Inventaire du fonds français après 1800, Bibliothèque nationale, Département des estampes, vol. 5, Cidoine-Daumier, Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1949, p. 237 (included among Coupé no. 6: "Trente-sept pl. d'apr. Desenne pour les Ermites de Jouy, 1813-1829")
George D. Sussman, Selling mothers' milk: the wet-nursing business in France, 1715-1914, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982, pp. 113-118 (on the Bureau des nourrices)


Wellcome Library no. 17707i



  • French

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