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The Strange Encounter

This astonishing engraving is displayed in one of the MIR’s rooms. It shows a miller, whip in hand, sitting on a donkey and heading towards a mill. Calvin’s name is written on the donkey’s hear, while on the rump of the animal, which is raising its tail to defecate, is inscribed “bais ici derrière”, a pun referring to the reformer Theodore Beza (“Bèze”, in French). Below the picture, two quatrains explain the scene. To the Calvinist who comes to meet him, the miller replies, pointing to the ear and buttocks of his mount: “voicy Calvin, E bais ici derriere”.

The play on words built on the name of Bèze and the allusions to Calvin are designed to ridicule both Reformers.

 

French artist, L’étrange rencontre, ca. 1600-1650, copper engraving. Musée historique de la Réformation, Geneva, on deposit at the International Museum of the Reformation, Geneva.