Saturday, November 7, 2009


I have a fondness for unique children's books and always keep an eye out for them in second hand bookshops; you know, the ones with the creaky hardwood floors? One of the illustrators I like to watch for, is Latvian artist Feodor Rojankowsky, known as "Rojan", who worked in Paris in the '20s and '30s.

My favorite Rojan illustrated book, from my personal collection, is a Little Golden Book published in 1933, Gaston and Josephine, a delightful story about two little pigs, who leave their farm in France for an adventure in America. I love this one so much, I had to find a copy on eBay, for my daughter, as well. Another of his books, The Three Bears, from my childhood, is just as quirky, and full of old world charm.

Although he was primarily known as a children's book illustrator, Rojan's other artistic endeavours were less well known, but no less appreciated. He regularly illustrated erotic fiction and his output was impressive. His erotic drawings often accompanied the poetry of Raymond Radiguet and Pierre Louÿs, as well as many others of the golden age of French erotica.

Rojan's chief accomplishment, has always been considered to be Idylle Printanière or Spring Idyll, published by ER Books as Paris Spring 1933, a "story without words" telling of an encounter between two elegant travellers who meet on a platform in the Paris Metro.

This art-deco masterpiece has lost none of its original fire and brilliance. The original 1933 edition, with only 516 sets printed, is now almost unobtainable and has fetched up to £2,500 at auction.

Here's a steamy example of Pierre Louÿs' poetry, which Rojan often illustrated, from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New York: Crown Publishers, 1921, translated to English by Horace M. Brown.


She has gone out, she is far from me,
but I see her, for all things in the room,
all pertain to her, and I, like all the rest.

This bed still warm,
over which I let my lips wander,
is disordered with the imprint of her form.
Upon this soft cushion has lain her little head
enveloped in its wealth of hair.

This basin is that in which she hath bathed;
this comb has penetrated
the knots of her tangled locks.
These slippers beg for her naked feet.
These pockets of gauze contained her breasts.

But what I dare not touch, is the mirror
in which she gazed upon her hot bruises,
and where perhaps remains still
the reflection of her moist lips.


  1. Something about the poem is disturbing.
    The speaker is afraid to look in the mirror. Did he cause those bruises?

    Willow, I love what you collect, what you display here, what you admire.

  2. Steamy, indeed! And I love the illustration with the little pig . . .

  3. sensual poem...though i do agree there is a bit of a stalker in there...

    the second pic tells an intriguing story...


    happy friday!

  4. Your header pic is incredible Willow, but then your blog is always a feast for the senses. Take this post for instance. I am in awe, again. That poem is seductive, and sinister. A lot of smoke and mirrors here.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Love the mystery in the poem. Thanks for the introduction to Rojan and Louys.

  6. wow, messed up dude...I think I know the three little bigs in which you I'm intrigued.

    much love

  7. willow gasp . . . deep breath - - - phew!!! i loved the image of the couple and the writing . . . oh! this illustrator and writer are new to me but oh so very present. thankyou. have a lovely evening at the manor. steven

  8. This is a fantastic artist and illustrator. i have heard of him but never recalled seeing his work before. This feature illustration from Gaston and Josephine is amazing. I love the quality of the work as well as the essence of life in the characters.
    i too love the illustrations of good childrens books. What is so important is that the readers of these books, children have such impressionable minds at their young age that a good story and illustration sticks with them and inspires much about life in their early stage of life.
    Your posts are always very meaningful and full of charm and quality.

  9. Like Lakeviewer I wondered if he had inflicted the bruises up on her.
    I watched "I Know Where I am Going."
    today. I loved that movie. You have introduced me to a new aspect of literature I had not been into. Celtic movies, I had loved celtic stories but never bothered to look for those kind of movies. With Netflix, I can find anything.

  10. Lovely post, Willow. As a child I had The Three Bears illustrated by Rojan and I always loved the illustrations in it. Gaston and Josephine sounds like a must have; Tukes is getting some Little Golden Books for Christmas and I'll add this one to the stack if I can track it down.

  11. I had a number of Golden Books as a child, including the Three Bears, not sure of the illustrater.

  12. I had a number of Golden Books as a child, including the Three Bears, not sure of the illustrater.

  13. Beautiful poetry, 'what I dare not touch'.

    Interesting illistrations.

    There is an auction of childrens illustration on at the moment. All raised money will benefit heart research at St Orrmond St Hospital (London- Peter Pan). Some well known illustrators have donated works. Nothing antique but it is authentic.

  14. The poem appears to be about an abusive relationship, she has gone because he beat her, and now he wants her back?? Am I right??

  15. I love old, beautiful and interesting children's books too, have only bought one so far, but can see it's something I will love to collect into the future.

  16. Wow, VERY educational. How much time do you spend researching these posts? Or did you just happen to already know about modern French literature?

    I never paid attention to illustrators' names, but agree that the picture looks remeniscent of some Little Golden Books I remember. I remember illustrations in the same style, but less detailed.

    The best thing about Gaston and Josephine might be their names. French names are so, so classy ... but only when pronounced with a French accent, otherwise they are just goofy.

  17. PS why is the man on the right hiding a gun behind his back? Was he out pig hunting?

  18. I Love those illustrations too! A flickr friend of mine from California managed an independent (childrens') bookstore for years in California, and I'll bet she'd recognize these beauties.

  19. I'll definitely be adding Rojan to my collection.

  20. I had no idea Little Golden books were publishing that long ago.

  21. Willow

    Once again, you have introduced me to something new. I found the intimacy and passionate obsession in the poetry a rare delight.

  22. Ciao Willow. I love me too old book. Actually I have a lot of them, illustrated as well. I have a couple of book about a Czech painter, Josef Lada, so good!

  23. Very beautiful illustrations in the children's books but Rohan is definitely capable of appealing to the adult market!! The Louys' poem absolutely sizzles! I would like to read more. You have titillated my senses.

  24. Thank for that Weaver, really interesting. Lovely post all round.

  25. That poor girl left without those "pockets of gauze"?
    Hot bruises? Hope she's gone for good! ;-)

  26. Willow,
    When ever I need a new avenue to explore I come to your manor and you always have a road not taken.
    I'm off to explore "Rojan" and,of course,Raymond Radiguet and Pierre Louÿs.

  27. The illustrations. Aha, there's such old world charm to it.

  28. This is going to sound weird, but sometimes I read your blog like I read a magazine: look at the pictures first, then read the words.

    That second picture, which I thought was some kind of a fashion illustration, made me think, "Wow! Sexy!" Message received and understood, even before I'd been told what it was.

    Thank you for opening a window into another world.

  29. Hello Willow,

    Rojan was obviously wide ranging in his artwork. The little pigs look charming; the poem is disturbing.

  30. That makes me feel quite at home with your Latvian illustrator.

  31. Hot bruises...l'amour a la francaise peut-etre?

  32. What ...... a ...... Poem!

    .... Oh, to be able to issue forth images and emotion in words, like that...

  33. Another thought-provoking post, Willow.

  34. JG, like a magazine? I take that as a huge compliment. I've always thought blogging was a lot like making my own magazine. Wow, thank you!

  35. Hey, all, like any piece of artwork, this poem is whatever you see in it. I don't like to analyze it to death, but just enjoy it's beauty.

  36. Erotic indeed and very intense.
    I THINK I remember that.........
    Happy weekend.

  37. I am always interested in how cultures have treated their children. Of course that treatment depended on what class the children were in within that culture. However, the treatment of children, their education and socialization, says an enormous amount about that society.

  38. Have published an e-book combining erotica and science fiction. It's the first of five providing Vayna's story, who is born a slave and slowly progresses towards the Freedom she ardently desires. The book's URL is of the Steppes.html The publisher can be reached at Thank-you.

  39. I don't think I have ever read an erotic poem before-- well not like this one-- the imagery is really something-- both seductive and bit disturbing at the same time.

  40. Rojan.

    Thank you, Willow, I now have a name for the artist.

  41. Okay, the "bruise" thing.

    In my mind, he's talking about the hickeys he left on her neck while they were gettin' biz-AY.

    Because, technically, they are bruises - bleeding beneath the skin.

    And because I don't want to think about men who beat women. It's not romantic or sensual, it's a horror.

    Hickeys, though? Hickeys are okay, because if she didn't want them, she could have just kneed him in the groin. So obviously it was consentual. Or consensual... wait, does that mean getting sensual with someone that was in prison?


  42. Marcheline, I'm glad you brought it up, because that is exactly my take on it. I think the poem is incredibly romantic and not at all about an abusive situation in the slightest.

  43. I too wonder about the bruises in the poem, willow. I have not heard of these books at all - maybe they are only in US.

  44. Wow!! The poem is so powerful. And yeah a little creepy as Rosaria says, but deep. Oh my!

  45. Love the art work...
    Right Willow....some women bruise very easily...maybe she did with all the um er .....attraction he expressed for her...{smiles}...
    And do take this as a compliment....I often find that I desrcibe your blog by saying it is as if someone set out to create a magazine (sans advertising) made up of all manner of topics that I totally enjoy!!

  46. Beautiful! I've not heard of him before, but will look for him now. thanks for sharing all the unique and varied paraphernalia you share on your blog. S'wonderful!

  47. Gaston and Josephine was one of my favorite childhood books. I still have (most of) a very tattered copy. (I was number six of seven children to peruse it's pages.) A treasure!

    And aaah, yes, how love leaves us with our "hot bruises"!

  48. T, you're the only one who knew Gaston and Josephine! I'm surprised you have any bit of it left after all your siblings were finished with it.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)