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BALZAC, Honoré de (1799-1850) and Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973, illustrator). Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu. Paris: Ambroise Vollard, 1931.

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BALZAC, Honoré de (1799-1850) and Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973, illustrator). Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu. Paris: Ambroise Vollard, 1931.

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BALZAC, Honoré de (1799-1850) and Pablo PICASSO (1881-1973, illustrator). Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu. Paris: Ambroise Vollard, 1931. 4° (320 x 240mm). Half-title and title with woodcut vignette by Georges Aubert after Picasso. Etched frontispiece and 12 plates by and after Picasso on Japon impériale, the final plate the second state of the 'Table des eaux-fortes,' additional suite of the frontispiece and 11 plates on Rives, Picasso's 'En manière d'Introduction' with 16 pages of woodcuts, and 66 woodcut illustrations in the text, by Aubert after Picasso. Black calf designed by Paul Bonet and signed inside the front cover, bound by Ferdinand Giraldon and finished by André Jeanne [cf. Carnets 692], executed in 1944 and dated on the inside back cover, the boards with abstract central sculptural plaques within oval recesses, the plaques built up of applied onlays of waved green, maroon, blue and brown calf, maroon calf doublures, the spine titled in gilt, gilt edges, original printed wrappers with 2 woodcut vignettes by Aubert after Picasso bound in, black calf-backed chemise, the covers with padded calf internal protective linings, slipcase. NUMBER 55 OF 65 COPIES ON JAPON IMPéRIALE, SIGNED BY PICASSO AND VOLLARD AND WITH AN ADDITIONAL SUITE OF ETCHINGS ON RIVES, IN A FINE SCULPTURAL BONET BINDING, the edition limited to 340 copies. Carteret describes the Picasso-illustrated Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu as an 'édition curieuse et très recherchée; elle est fort cotée pour l'illustration géométrique d'une grande vedette moderne'. These illustrations are not only an interpretation of the themes of the text, but also an examination of Picasso's own reactions to the questions raised by it. Balzac's novel can be seen as his 'declaration of aesthetic faith ... and his most fervent plea for the cause of art and the artist. Through the character of an old painter named Frenhofer, who has been working towards the completion of his painting La belle Noiseuse for ten years, Balzac explores the problem of the artist torn between the ecstacies of creation and the quest for perfection in execution. He also explores the relationship of the painter to his model' (Goeppert, Goeppert-Frank and Cramer). Picasso's visual response is articulated through etchings and illustrations which do not literally depict episodes in the story, but rather 'deal with the novel's deeper meaning, especially the various elements of an artist's relationship to his model'. For example, plate VIII shows 'an artist painting the portrait of a woman who stands behind him and observes him', and explores a theme which fascinated Picasso: 'the relationship between the spectator and the spectacle, the observer and the observed' (op. cit). This was the thirteenth copy of Un Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu to be bound by Bonet who, in his Carnets, describes the central plaques as 'un grand motif abstrait sculpté et couvert de veau de differentes couleurs vives'. The present binding is illustrated on plate 175 (where it is shown on exhibition at the Galerie Renou et Colle in 1945), and is an extremely fine example of the abstract sculpté bindings that succeeded Bonet's earlier surrealist work of the 1920s and 1930s, replacing the geometric pictorial and verbal elements with more flowing shapes. The Artist and the Book 225; Carteret IV, p.51; Geiser 123-135; Goeppert, Goeppert-Frank and Cramer 20; Hogben and Watson 92; Schauwers II, 662; Paul Bonet Carnets 1924-1971 (Paris: 1981) 692.
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No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
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