Louis Le Breton, illustrator of boats and demons
May 2, 2016 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Maybe you first saw one of them in a video game or a heavy metal album cover: the 69 demons Louis Le Breton illustrated for Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal (previously). But who was the man who rendered these images, and brought the dukes and presidents of Hell to life in such specific detail? Would he want to be remembered for his drawings of composite monsters and naked men riding dragons, or did he perhaps leave another legacy entirely?

A medical student, Le Breton sailed on the second voyage of the Astrolabe with the French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville as a surgeon. When dysentery created a job opening within the expedition for a new official illustrator, Le Breton seized the opportunity and went on to a career as a draftsman for the French Navy. It was only near the end of his life that he set his hand to drawing the denizens of Hell for de Plancy.

Now that you know the rest of the story, take a moment in this, the year of the 150th anniversary of Le Breton's passing, to enjoy some of his maritime art. The ships aren't crawling with serpents and they aren't manned by sailors with the heads of crows and toads, but they're beautiful just the same.
posted by prize bull octorok (13 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I can't begin to express how badly my brain is trying to make '88 Lines About 44 Demons' happen right now.

Also I appreciate the detail about how he nabbed that career opportunity. 'Broke through the dysentery ceiling' is a phrase that absolutely deserves to exist.
posted by Fantods at 2:40 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

Would he want to be remembered for his drawings of composite monsters and naked men riding dragons

Who wouldn't?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:13 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Would he want to be remembered for his drawings of composite monsters and naked men riding dragons

Oh, now we're going to be shamed into having higher aspirations?
posted by bongo_x at 4:17 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's a demon named Leonard. Way to bury the lede.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:18 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I can't begin to express how badly my brain is trying to make '88 Lines About 44 Demons' happen right now.

Really, not "69 Demons but Baal Aint One"?
posted by bongo_x at 4:22 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had no idea who did those demon drawings, the ships are pretty fantastic as well. Thanks for this, I'm going to have to do more exploring.
posted by bongo_x at 4:25 PM on May 2, 2016

I can't begin to express how badly my brain is trying to make '88 Lines About 44 Demons' happen right now.

Should be 88 Lines about 14 Words.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:07 PM on May 2, 2016

Fantods: you called, and I appear. Witness:

88 Lines about 44 Goetia

Bael was a regal one, not to be bossed around
His three heads would complain with the loudest sound.
Agares found pleasure in teaching immoral expressions,
He rode in on crocodile and had a pale complexion.
Vassago told the future and had a goodly nature,
Nonetheless he did rebel and fight against the Creator.
Gamigin was about liberal science and the souls that drowned at sea,
He spoke in rough Tom Waits like voice and was a Great Marquis.

Aaaaah ah ah ah ah ah ah……

Barbas changed the shapes of men and dug mechanical arts
You’d often find him in Abbadon scrounging up new parts.
Valefar is the duke of Thieves and tempts people to steal
He likes to hang on Wall Street where he say he keeps it real.
Paimon was effeminate and traveled with a band
A mighty king on camelback he rode across the land.
Buer would only appear at the sign of Sagittarius
Some would say his five goat legs made him appear hilarious.

88 Lines….. about 44 demons

Gusion reconciled friends with honor and with dignity
A baboon headed xenophile, he’d often get quite fidgety.
Sitri was a Prince of Hell, reigns over sixty legions,
His gimmick is bewitching folks to display their nether regions.
Beleth is the queen of nightmares, you must not be afraid,
If you dare to bargain with her a silver ring has to be paid.
Leraje is a dapper gent, likes to dress in green,
Always at great battlefields where the carnage is obscene.

Ah ah ahahaha aha a……

Eligos you can consult about outcomes of wars,
He was gifted by Beelzebul with a skeletal riding horse.
Zepar is an arsonist a compulsive firebug,
He smells like burning garbage so he never gets a hug.
Otis is an ugly viper with big teeth and two horns,
He likes to talk about the past and is frequently forlorn.
Bothin extols the virtues of many precious stones
He can prescribe some special herbs that help heal broken bones.

88 Lines…… about 44 demons.

Saleos is a pacifist but still rules many demons
He often will imbue straight men with a craving for other’s semen.
Purson knows of hiddeng things and the creation of the world,
When summoned many trumpets sound and his banner will unfurl.
Marax is a man faced bull, talks about astronomy,
Knows the best familiars, and also good hot sauce recipes.
Ipos has the body of an angel, that’s what Planchon said,
But I am not a furry and he has a lion for his head.

Ah ah aha ha ah ah ah ah…..

Aim will give you true answers when asked on private matters
But likes to roam across the land causing fiery disasters.
Naberius is most valiant, restores lost awards and honors,
Teaches gracious living, but can also be a bother.
Glasya incites homicides and can make you turn invisible,
She says there is not any house that is not easily divisible.
Lilith was a feminist, would not take Adam’s guff,
Got kicked out of Eden and likes to sleep in the buff.

88 Lines… about 44 Goetia

Leonard was a pudgy one, sensitive about his weight,
A very strange condition when he could assume any shape.
Ronove was an antiquarian, liked to collect old souls,
When called to earth he’d take the form of a very stylish troll.
Bune’s main gig was switching corpse between different sepulchers,
He had a very comely voice, but his head was of a vulture.
Baal-berith is a liar when he’s not answering questions,
Still he can be useful if you need alchemy lessons.

Ah ah ah aha aha aha ah…..

Astaroth seduces men with lust, laziness and vanity
His opponent is Bartholomew, who resisted that philosophy.
Forneus comes out of ovens, looks like a sea monster,
Teaches rhetoric and harmony, if you want to be a rock star.
Forcas teaches logic, he’s eloquent and witty,
But like most philosophy profs he grades you with no pity.
Gaap controls the waters and to four kings is guide,
He likes to make police men become ignorant to spies.

88 Lines…. About 44 demons.

Furfur will lie to you unless in a triangle
He plays an awesome lead guitar is his services you wrangle,
Marchosias sought to return to heaven, that would be his hope
But he still suffers down in Hell where he cannot cope.
Stolas is a long legged owl that always wears a crown,
If you want to start your own drug lab, Stolas is always down.
Phenex has a lovely voice, and has talent as a poet,
His only flaw is that he’s vain and insists that you should know it.

Malthus is an armorer who fills towers with ammunition
He will go and incite a war if you don’t pay his tuition.
Raum takes the form of a crow and steals valuables from homes,
He said his favorite time on earth was the sacking of Ancient Rome.
Focalor prefers to kill by making sailors drown,
He only seems to appear when hurricanes are around.
Sabnock is a mean marquis with command over worms
He likes to bother wounded men and loves to watch them squirm.

Shax is quite a torturer and will rob you of your sight
Unless you bind him in the darkness in the middle of the night.
Vual is a dromedary who only speaks Egyptian,
But if you understand him he will make no contradictions.
Crocell is mysterious with a strange and subtle wrath,
He makes warm bodies of water, can locate natural baths.
Camio looks like an armed Pigeon, and knows about the past,
And with that demon now my song is finished up at last.

posted by LeRoienJaune at 10:41 PM on May 2, 2016 [8 favorites]

Seems like this would be a fine time for me to post 'Straight Out of R'Lyeh' on the blue, as well:


Crazy Mutherfucker called Cthulhu,
From a group called Eldritch with Attitude,
When I'm called off
I got a shoggoth
Squeeze my talons and bodies are hauled off.
You too if you coexist with me
The Outer Gods are going to have and come and get me
Up your soul that's how I'm going out
For all the punk sorcerers that's showing out
Migos start to mumble
They want to rumble
Mix em and cook them in a pot like gumbo.
I'm blowing up on the universe like that
With a glyph that's pointed at your ass
So give up your mind smooth
Ain't no telling what I'll do if there's a jack move
Here's a murder rap to keep y'all dancing
With an occult record worse than Manson
Dho-Na Incantation is a tool
Don't play me like a motherfucking fool
Nodens thinks he's toe to toe with me on melee
I'm knocking Dream Gods out the box daily
Yo weekly monthly and yearly
Until all of the dead scream drearily
That I'm down with the city that's under the sea
Humans y'all can't fuck with me!
So when I'm in your universe, you better duck
Cause Cthulhu is crazy as fuck,
All the deep ones jumping up and shout Hell yeah,
Cause when I return, I'm coming straight out of R'lyeh.

Yo Ythogtha! Tell em where you're from!

Straight out of R'lyeh! Another crazy ass Old One!
Tcho-tchos I smoke and my rep gets more done!
I'm a bad muther fucker and you know this,
But the pussy ass mi-gos won't show this!
But I don't give a fuck I'm going to make my snaps
If not from the grimoires then from melting down the icecaps
It's like necromancy, the definition is fthagn,
But when I'm eldritchly armed it's called packing,
Genocide a million in a minute
I find a good megacity and go off in it
Hastur got a show and you're front row?
I call you a black goat of the woods and a dirty ass hoe!
You probably get scared like a mortal's supposed to
But that panic shows the contempt you're composed to
I'm a crazy motherfucker from the deeps
Attitude legit because I'm tearing up shit
I got brain control it's automatic
For any dumb world leader that tries to start static.
I'm not the black hand I am the hand itself
Every time I summon another meteor from the asteroid belt!
Warding is maximum but that's a law
R.E.D. spells red but I'm raw
See I'm cause I'm a motherfucking villain
The definition is clear you're the witness of a mass killing
You're fixed in place with out a clue
When you're in my scope, yeah it's through
Look you might take it as a trip
But an Old One like Cthulhu is on the monster rip
Straight out of R'Lyeh!

Zoth Omnog is his name and the Elder's coming
Strait out of R'lyeh is a brother that'll smother your mother
And make your sister think I love her
Dangerous motherfucker raises hell
And if I'm ever in trouble, I hide in my shell,
I don't give a fuck, that's the problem,
I see an Outer God then I don't dodge them,
But I'm smart, lay low, sleep a while,
And when the eons passed, I crack a smile,
To me it's kind of funny, to see these hominids evolving,
But not knowing they'll be soon be dissolving
Roving, trying to gain the favor of their false gods,
Never understanding the only true one's Zoth-Omnog,
Ruthless you never see me, I'm like a shadow in the dark,
You see the sentients filled with hesitation,
And hear the screams of the one that caught my last ministration,
Feel a gust of cosmic wind and I'm jetting,
But leave a memory that no one's forgetting,
What about the planet that I ate, fuck her,
You think I give a damn, I ain't no sucker,
This is the autobiography of me, the original Big Nasty,
Taken, by a ruthless motherfucker who will smother,
Word to your mother
Straight out of R'lyeh!
posted by LeRoienJaune at 10:48 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's this video on YouTube which I'm not going to link to where a guy whaps a spider with a broom and a million baby spiders explode out of it and scatter in all directions across the floor and presumably up the broom handle and into the guy's skin and eye sockets and mouth too.

LeRoienJaune makes my heart burst with baby spiders of joy.
posted by Fantods at 2:21 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

88 Lines about 44 Goetia

Can somebody cover this for MeFi Music?
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:59 AM on May 3, 2016

Dark Souls does a really good job at getting to the medieval conceptions of horror and monstrosity, while still updating them for modern audiences. The Gaping Dragon, for example. Reading through that Bogleech article was one of my favorite parts of the post: the way that a casual insult to people of a different religion, transferred to an imagined celestial being, transferred to an archetype of fantasy monster (largely filtered through Japanese interpretations of Christian mythology).
posted by codacorolla at 12:22 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Great stuff!

I do enjoy that one of the demons is named "Leonard".
posted by picea at 5:31 PM on May 3, 2016

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