Artist Unknown

Dans ce Soldat Trompé Reconnais Ton Erreur, Mortel, Qu’un Faux Eclat Attache Aux Biens Du Monde

  • Sir Joseph Kinsey bequest
  • Engraving
  • 259 x 313mm
  • 73/175

The text beneath the print reads:

Dans ce soldat trompé reconnais ton erreur. Mortel, qu’un faux éclat attache aux biens du monde, Il cherchait des trésors et ne trouve qu’horreur, Regarde le néant où ton bonheur se fonde: Et toi, que les appas rendent présomptueux, Contemple ce cadavre et cette pourriture, Et songe qu’aujourd’hui rien ne s’offre à tes yeux, Qui ne soit de toi-même une image future.

This may be translated as:

O mortal, recognize, in this soldier’s deception, the error of attaching too much importance to earthly goods He sought treasure but found only horror Look at the void into which his happiness has melted And you, made presumptuous by your approach, Contemplate this corpse and this decay And reflect that today you are seeing nothing Other than a future image of yourself.

Compare Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, item number A63 and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans item number INV. 510

The source is a painting that hung in the Abbaye de la Trappe, but lost during the abbey's Napoleonic exile, by René Houasse (1645–1710). It was engraved by Etienne Baudet (1638-1711) on which both the Orléans and Oxford paintings are based. The Ashmolean Museum suggest that it may represent King Darius opening the tomb of Queen Nitocris of Babylon in search of hidden treasure, as described by Herodotus (Histories, I, 187). It may also represent a soldier raiding the tomb of Alexander the Great.

See 'Histoire civile, religieuse et littéraire de l'abbaye de La Trappe' by Louis François Du Bois.