Symbol for enfant terrible??

Charlotta's picture

I've been working on a project for a long time now trying to find an image/symbol to represent an "enfant terrible" and the only thing I've come up with so far is a black sheep. Very creative...And besides, is a black sheep applicable to other people when they think about an enfant terrible? My interpretation is an interesting person who might have a problem "fitting in", who's not afraid to be different, and someone rebellious and flamboyant and that's what I want to portray in this project.
If anyone out there has a suggestion for this I would be INCREDIBLY grateful since my whole frickin project is an arrested development right now because I'm stuck trying to figure this one out. :-)

pattyfab's picture

How about putting devil's horns or a devil's tail on your black sheep. In addition to what you described, I think of an enfant terrible as being a bit of a provocateur, a thorn in the side of respectable society. Horns might not really read properly though since some sheep do have horns.

Or a baby/devil?

ill sans's picture

An "enfant terrible" is ideal for mixing cute with hardcore...
Take anything cute (this can be a teddybear, a lettercube,... or something more symbolic like a heart) & set it to fire! Lock it in chains, tattoo it, pierce it! Basically, go nuts & have fun!

Linda Cunningham's picture

And besides, is a black sheep applicable to other people when they think about an enfant terrible?

Hmm. Well, not to me. ;-)

"Black sheep" do what they do because they are intelligent, confident and competent to a high degree, aware that they are different than others, and aren't ashamed of it. Oscar Wilde is a pretty good example of one.

An "enfant terrible" is just a whiny brat, desperate for attention, and oblivious to the world around them (and vice versa). Find your own example. ;-)

Charlotta's picture

Thank you for great ideas and thoughts about this! I have considered doing something with a devil - maybe an angel with horns, or is that too blasphemous? ;-)
The AD I worked with earlier suggested a little girl with pig tails holding a gun, but I'm not that crazy about weapons. ;-)
Linda - I totally agree with you about finding my own example, or interpretation of what it means to me, but I don't agree with your explanation of an enfant terrible. They're usually known as provocateurs, for example, "he's the enfant terrible of the art world". But then again, maybe a provocative artist is just a whiny brat looking for attention deep inside. ;-)

Linda Cunningham's picture

I think the difference is substance -- black sheep have it, and "enfants terribles" don't.

You can be almost as crazy as you want if you're a genius. ;-)

mili's picture

The Wikipedia says:
An enfant terrible, from the French meaning "terrible child", is one whose startlingly unconventional behavior, work, or thought embarrasses or disturbs others.

Tricky, that one.

pattyfab's picture

The problem with the enfant terrible is that the behavior can actually distract you from whether or not there's any substance. It can be hard to get past the antics. But life without them would be a big bore.

All artists are looking for attention.

I don't agree with Linda's assessment of the black sheep either, the black sheep can just be the family f**k-up. It's not always a choice and they're not always looking for attention.

From wikipedia (just so we're comparing apples to apples - and not to pc's)
Black sheep is a derogatory colloquialism in the English language meaning an outsider or one who is different in a way which others disapprove of or find odd. This can be someone who has been shunned by others, or one who has chosen to be an outsider, due to actions and aims that separate them from the rest of the people or "flock". A typical example might be a family member who has chosen to follow a religion other than that of the rest of his family.

So as I see it, the black sheep symbol doesn't really apply.

Maybe a sassy baby sticking it's tongue out?

Linda Cunningham's picture

I come from a family full of black sheep and we resent that remark. ;-)

ebensorkin's picture

I am influenced by the Jean Cocteau Novel of the same name

Cocteau, Jean, The Holy Terrors (Les enfants terribles)

So my idea about the phrase is that the 'enfants terribles' is presnet to some degree in all children. To me that's the more interesting idea. It isn't a suggestion I know but perhaps a different spin will help. Also, the book is short & quite good I think.

What's the context for your project anyway? Why 'enfants terribles'?

franzheidl's picture

immediately thought of him:

Even Mark Twain had a go at translating this, included in his rather wonderful book "The Awful German Language".

pattyfab's picture

The Tiger Lillies are amazing.

hrant's picture

Interesting project.

I think a key element would be a tongue sticking out.


Charlotta's picture

This is very interesting and certainly thought provoking. I have always felt (and called myself) the black sheep in my family, in spite of being deeply loved by my parents. I wasn't acting out and being a difficult teenager but I was the sensitive and creative one,
nothing like my pragmatic, down-to-earth, older sister. And then growing up I never knew what to do with my life - there never was a "straight path to follow" career-wise. I was always the bohemian, the creative, the impulsive, the one always sticking out and never feeling I belonged. I think this often applies to children who are more creatively talented. For me it was music at first, then design. My sister followed my mother's path and became a nurse. Life was always so much easier for her.
When I came across the words "enfant terrible" the first time I immediately could relate but now I don't know. I might be provocative,
flamboyant and go my own way, but never because I desperately need to assert myself or crave attention.

The project is jewelry (my own). One collection is called "Social Butterfly" the other "Enfant Terrible". The first is more subtle, pretty, feminine, classic with understated colors, and the "Enfant Terrible" is bold, flamboyant, edgy, and colorful - for people who like to stand out and wanting to be noticed. I chose these two "epithets" because they're so far apart and beause I can identify with both. I am so grateful for all your comments but it bothers me a bit that most of you have negative feelings about an enfant terrible.
That's not good consider I'm launching a collection. ;-) Maybe I should just go with Black sheep instead? ;-)

Linda Cunningham's picture

:-) There's a nice contrast there too, though -- a mammal/vertebrate with four feet on the ground vs. insect/invertebrate that flies.

I agree with you that there are a lot of negatives associated with "enfant terrible": must be that "more prone to toss a tantrum" aspect. :-(

hrant's picture

But of course a true enfant terrible relishes those negative associations!

Charlotta, those are two great names for your jewelry lines.
Once in a while, I wish I were a woman. For a second.


ill sans's picture

Actually, I think "black sheep" has a more negative ring to it than "enfant terrible" although in a different, kind of depressing way. Even though Wikipedia clearly states it can come from a personal choice, I associate black sheep with empathy for a stranger, the quiet, shy kid in the back of the class that no one speaks to whereas I associate "enfant terrible" with the rebel (in which I can see the flamboyant colours working). To me an "enfant terrible" is a bit like a joker, provocative in a playfull manner much like the joker Jack Nicholson portrayed in Batman.

Randy's picture

Don't drop the name. It has much more swagger than *black sheep*. How much mileage has Blue Q gotten out of negative connotations? Enfant seems tame compared to their tongue in cheek bad girl/rodeo/sacrilege theme.

Thanks for sharing about both lines. The contrasting labels seems like they give you more leeway with the design. I think you can play more loosely with Enfant Terrible, because the key is the contrast.

Spiders (brown recluse vs social butterfly), bettles, or bats might contrast well too. I liked pattyfab's suggestion of the sheep with devil tail. Got me thinking about mythological beasts and somehow Enfant Terrible says Dragon in Diapers to me.

Charlotta's picture

Linda - I agree. There is definitely a contrast but at the same time something links them together - both being animals which kind of binds them nicely together.

hrant - I agree with you too! :-) Obviously I want a reaction to draw attention to my jewelry. And thank you for saying that you like the names, that made me really happy! :-) Do you wish you were a woman so you could make jewelry or wear them? ;-)

ill sans - I do think a black sheep has a slightly sad feeling about it whereas an enfant terrible is someone you at least don't feel sorry for. But at the end of the day I do think these two epithets belong together. Thinking of the context of jewelry, however, a black sheep might not be associated with color and edgy, bold pieces. This is really hard - I've been working on it for weeks and I can't come to a solution I'm happy with. Having said that, all of your intelligent and creative opinions and ideas really help. :-)

hrant's picture

Wear. You don't have to be a woman to make jewelry.
Well, I guess you don't really have to be a woman to wear
jewelry either, but... it's different. And I like differences.


Jackie Frant's picture

I believe François Truffaut had a movie by that name. - Les Enfant Terrible.
My favorite scene - a baby tumbling several feet down to the ground, from a 3rd or 4th floor window - and when he landed on his bottom (sitting upright) laughing, he said, "Je fai BOOM." It was out about 1973-74.

That was a enfant terrible image I have kept in my head -- forever.

Charlotta's picture

I like this description from Merriam-Webster: "2. a usually young and successful person who is strikingly unorthodox, innovative, or avant-garde."

And here's something else I found from a swedish site. Love the picture - I think it's an album cover.

"When is someone considered to be an "enfant terrible"? Or a "bad boy"? What characterizes an "enfant terrible", what distinguishes a "bad boy" from others, from normal ones (?!)? Are they within music composers/musicians who go their own way unwaveringly, who support their ideas, regardless if others think it amateurish, simplistic, bad, eccentric or whatever?" Steffen Schleiermacher

Apparently this topic brings up a lot of opinions/feelings.

wormwood's picture

How about a baby's dummy or rattle with horns or punk studs/spikes? It could make a nice design for a piece of jewellery too.

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pattyfab's picture

I don't think of sheep as particularly sexy (unless you're a lonely shepherd I guess) whereas enfant terrible sounds more enticing - to me. I do NOT have negative connotations with enfants terribles - as I said earlier, they make life interesting. I guess I don't focus on the hissy fits as much as them thumbing their nose at convention.

So I'd stick with your first instinct, I like it.

And I'd love to see the jewelry.

Jon - I read that as "Steak Babies" and got confused!

Charlotta's picture

Randy - Another insect is a great idea but I absolutely loathe spiders. But finding an insect that is the opposite of the stunningly beautiful and innocent butterfly is an interesting idea.

hrant - It goes without saying that you can make jewelry even if you're a man, but you could've meant that it's easier to make it if you're a woman - or a woman's jewelry would be more beautiful, creative, sensual, delicate, alluring. That is a way to interpret what you said.

hrant's picture

An important aspect of enfants terribles is
that they piss people off for the hell of it.

> a woman’s jewelry would be more beautiful,
> creative, sensual, delicate, alluring.

I might like to mean that too.

BTW, I find spiders much more beautiful than butterflies.
Which is why I'm a text font guy, not a display font guy.


Charlotta's picture

Patty - Enfant terribles do make life more interesting. I just read that they called Katherine Hepburn an enfant terrible. Who could be more representative? I have always stood my ground and I have never asked anyone about what to wear or what I should buy - I've always trusted my own taste and what I like. But now I apparently, at least according to all these marketing people and AD:s that I have worked with since I started my business, have to start to think about how other people perceive things and what kind of message I want to send out and how people want to FEEL when they buy something. I think it's so fake at times but I guess I have to play along. So, this is why I began to waver when I got all these opinions about how people perceive an enfant terrible. But maybe I have to take that into consideration?

hrant's picture

An enfant terrible is not introverted at all.
She tends to care a lot about what people think.
How else could she intentionally piss them off?


Linda Cunningham's picture

I just read that they called Katherine Hepburn an enfant terrible.

She was certainly acknowledged (both by her and her family) as being a black sheep. ;-)

But now I apparently, at least according to all these marketing people and AD:s that I have worked with since I started my business, have to start to think about how other people perceive things and what kind of message I want to send out and how people want to FEEL when they buy something. I think it’s so fake at times but I guess I have to play along. So, this is why I began to waver when I got all these opinions about how people perceive an enfant terrible.

Totally understandable in wanting to "do your own thing" but good marketing means taking into account what will result in the most sales.

Who can forget when Chevrolet wanted to market one of their cars in Mexico but never considered that just because English-speaking clients would buy a Nova that in Spanish-speaking countries, "no va" means "it doesn't go"?

Big oops there.... ;-)

Miss Tiffany's picture

Phillipe Starck has been called the "enfant terrible" of the interiors/furniture world. I think it has wicked and fun connotations. I like it more than black sheep. Although I have a t-shirt that says, "pink sheep of the family" on it.

pattyfab's picture

If you're gonna go with a spider it has to be a black widow.

It seems tho that Linda is the only one voicing negative connotations with enfant terrible. Seems like it appeals to most everyone else who's responded.

Charlotta's picture

Linda - I hear you... :-) It's just that the whole marketing thing is totally new to me. I just want to be creative - the thought of being pushy and "selling" myself and my jewelry freaks me out! :-)
And I am too honest, apparently. I wrote an "About" text for my website and mentioned living in NYC and not being able to work beause I didn't have a working permit, (which actually made me begin with the jewelry business in the first place so it was very relevant), but I had to take that out because it gave the wrong impression and was too negative. I really have to question if people are that gullable? I have also been told that my jewelry can't be priced too low?! It's apparently all about the "feeling" an expensive item gives a person. :-)

Linda Cunningham's picture

It seems tho that Linda is the only one voicing negative connotations with enfant terrible. Seems like it appeals to most everyone else who’s responded.

It's the editor in me, and I doubt that the audience reading this thread are representative of the sort of clients Charlotta is hoping to attract . :-) That I'm also working to market more of my art, and thus it's a topic I have more than a passing interest in, also figures into the mix.

Charlotta's picture

Yes, maybe there is a difference between my potential customers and the people in this forum. I have sometimes thought that "enfant terrible" might be too pretentious for "the average customer".

Linda Cunningham's picture

Depends on the sort of client mix you want to appeal to, I guess. Pretentious people pay more, even though there's fewer of them (well, not here....hahaha). ;-)

Charlotta's picture

That's so true...probably me included. ;-)
I actually do think pretentious (perhaps a tad noveau riche) people pay more because they want to - and then go and flaunt it.

Just have to say that I looked at your profile and that I am deeply envious of you for having attended Parson's. I was going to study interior design there years ago but something got in the way (read boy trouble). Ironically enough, I ended up moving to NYC and lived on Fifth ave. at 14th street so I pretty much walked by the school on a daily basis. Boo-hoo. ;-) But good for you!

cuttlefish's picture

If you remove the wings from most butterflies, you're left with a rather disturbing looking bug.

Of course I wouldn't recommend doing that.

lherrou's picture

Setting aside the whole enfant terrible thing for a min, I want to bring up chocolate. Actually, in response to:
>> Who can forget when Chevrolet wanted to market one of their cars in Mexico...

I wanted to point out that that is a long-perpetuated myth.

When it comes to Enfant Terrible, I guess I see it as a bit of an antiquated term, and this image comes to mind:
If you are thinking insects still, perhaps the scarab is a good one to juxtapose against the butterfly, it's somewhat recognizable, and it's pretty much the opposite of the flighty butterfly.

wormwood's picture

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Tell's picture

Show off.

Hiroshige's picture


Charlotta's picture

Lherrou - I like the idea of the scarab, I've always liked the look of them. I even made a pendant of a carved scarab once, but will it make sense? Can one find a correlation between an enfant terrible and a scarab?

Wormwood - That is just brilliant! Maybe there's a future for you
as a jewelry designer? :-) A bit too hard core punk/goth for me but put it on a long, thick silver chain and I'm sure someone who's into that style would love to wear that around the neck. Very wicked. :-)

Charlotta's picture

Tim - Very scary images but yet stunningly beautiful. I especially liked the one of the two children wearing those little "hats" with
horns. It makes me believe that they're not evil children, only dressed up for a masquerade.

Hiro - That's an hilarious picture, but again, it seems most people associate this epithet with something that's mostly negative - being loud, obnoxious, bratty and provocative in a way that isn't necessarily positive.

ill sans's picture

Tim's link reminded me of the work of Mark Ryden, some creepy stuff on his site too...
Don't know if it's on his site, but he made a painting of a little boy on a tricycle in a pink Nazi-uniform. Now thàt's a horrible child!

lore's picture

Der Struwwelpeter is one of my favourite (and a great source of my childhood's anxieties...)
"Oh, che schifo quel bambino!
È Pierino il Porcospino.
Egli ha l'unghie smisurate
Che non furon mai tagliate;
I capelli sulla testa
Gli han formata una foresta
Densa, sporca, puzzolente.
Dice a lui tutta la gente:
Oh, che schifo quel bambino!
È Pierino il Porcospino."

etc. etc. thanks, Franz!

What about Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes)? Maybe you can try to find one of his great faces and reduce it to its essence. You have to be careful that it doesn't actually remind Calvin toooo much.

Charlotta's picture

Lore - I need the symbol for my jewelry collection so I don't think that Calvin will work. Thanks for the suggestion though. :-)
I looked at your work and was very impressed - so beautiful and moving. I especially liked "Tree".

Thord's picture

How about something similar to the rolling stones logo?

lore's picture

Yeah, pity about Calvin, I understand, it should be something more poetic.
Enfant terrible could be associated with "wild" I guess, so personally I'm not sure about the sheep thing. Even if it's a black one ; )

Maybe more like a crazy horse or any other animal that could have these wild/not tame connotations...or what about a whip? Sorry I'm not being very selective today!

And wow, thanks for your comments on my stuff, it means a lot to me. : )

timd's picture

>only dressed up for a masquerade
Oh, they probably have tentacles hidden somewhere, but evil-lovely, lovely-evil images.

Enfant Terrible is a term that has been thrown about so much that it has lost much of its meaning so all the above could be correct, almost defying definition, so here is mine – a student/follower who turns on the precepts of his/her mentor, but the title is ephemeral and can only be held until the student has students/followers of their own, after which it becomes insulting (Damien Hirst, David Carson).
Symbol – a pram with a tentacle coming out? Ronald Searle’s drawings come to mind


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