Madame, the flea that crept between your breasts
I envied that there he should take his rest.
The little creature's fortune was so good
That angels feed not on such precious food.
John Donne (1572-1631), On a Flea on His Mistress's Bosom
For centuries humans have been fed on by fleas. Yet these nasty blood-sucking, disease-spreading parasites engendered a genre of early eroticism, the flea hunt. The image of a nubile young woman intensely searching her naked milk-white skin in the intimacy of her boudoir appeared in everything from fine art to bawdy ballads.
Woman Catching a Flea, Georges de La Tour, 1638.
But fleas are tiny, and sometimes the pursuit for the pest requires a posse, so it was not uncommon to also portray a helper, often husband or lover, literally shedding a little light on the hunt.
The Merry Flea Hunt, Gerrit Van Honthorst, 1628
Although certainly far later, the concerned couple in In #546 continue this historic erotic theme. Of excellent china, this 4.5 inch tall figurine is finely painted and beautifully detailed. It is marked only with a faint and partial blue crown underneath. The concentration on the helpful husband's face as he holds up the candle and bends closer to better scan his wife bare breasts is truly touching! Schafer and Vater also produced a flipper featuring a lone female searching for a frisky flea.