Jean Claude Richard, abbé de Saint-Non (1727-1791) & Dominique Vivant-Denon (1747-1826)
Voyage pittoresque ou description des royaumes de Naples et de Sicile. Paris: Clousier, 1781-1786. 4 volumes bound in 5, folio (507 x 332mm). Half-titles, titles with engraved vignettes, 2pp. engraved dedication to Marie Antionette, 111 engraved head-or tail-pieces, 25 hand-coloured, 306 fine engraved plates, maps and plans, 291 plates, all before letters and including the rarely-found phallic plate; 15 maps and plans, some folding, after Auvray, Choffard, Cochin, Desmoulins, Desprez, Fragonard and others by Aliamet, Alix, Berthault, Chffard, Couché, Dagoty fils, Deplessi, Saint-Aubin, Saint-Non and others. Contemporary red morocco gilt by Derôme le jeune (with his ticket [Ract-Madou K.1] on first half-title), covers with triple fillet border, spines gilt in eight compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second and third, the others with repeat overall decoration composed from Derôme's characteristic stepped zig-zag roll, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, gilt edges. Provenance: Irwin Laughlin (bookplate).
A MAGNIFICENT COPY OF THIS FINE WORK: ONE OF VERY FEW DE LUXE EXAMPLES WITH THE PLATES PRINTED 'BEFORE LETTERS' AND HERE BOUND IN CONTEMPORARY FRENCH MOROCCO BY DERôME LE JEUNE, ONE OF THE GREATEST OF FRENCH BOOK-BINDERS OF HIS GENERATION. The combination of plates and the fine bindings makes this set one of the finest extant, indeed, Cohen-de Ricci, writing in 1912 could cite only one copy that compares with the present set: 'L'exemplaire du Musée Dutuit (n.598), en maroquin rouge de Derôme (signé) a les figures avant la letree' and one other copy (with the plates with letters) that comes close: 'Un bel exemplaire en maroquin rouge par Derôme, avec les fiigures avec la lettre... vente du baron R.[oger] Portalis, revendu ...vente Rich.[ard] Lion (n.281)'. The 291 plates include 414 subjects from some of the greatest French artist/illustrators of the period: Fragonard, Hubert Robert, Choffard, Cochin, Houel and of course Saint-Non himself.
As a younger son, Jean Claude Richard de Saint-Non was expected to enter the church, but preferring the arts, he took only minor orders, becoming a sub-deacon. In 1759 he went to Italy to study art and architecture in Rome where, amongst others, he met the artists Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Hubert Robert (who were among those who contributed drawings to this work). He travelled to Naples with them in the spring of 1760, spending several weeks in Naples itself, as well as visiting Paestum, Pompeii and Herculaneum, where he drew copies of murals and antiquities. On his return to Paris in 1761, preparation of the plates was put in hand under the direction of Jean Benjamin de La Borde, co-author with Zurlauben of the equally spectacular Tableaux de la Suisse. The work took almost 25 years to complete, with Saint-Non spending an immense amount of time and great deal of money in the preparation of the work. Publication did not begin until 1781, twenty years after his return from Italy, and then continued until 1786. The work can now be seen as the first successful attempt at the publication of a major artistic exploration of all aspects of the life and history of a lesser known region of the world. Sicily and the kingdom of Naples had both remained unconsidered and unvisited by the rest of Europe until the uncovering of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the re-evaluation of the ruins of Paestum. The work was an undoubted critical success but a financial disaster, and it is said to have hastened Saint-Non's death in 1791. Recent research has proved that, although Sain-Non was the undoubted driving force behind the work, the actual descriptive text is the work of Dominique Vivant-Denon. Berlin Katalog 1904; Brunet V, 55; Cohen-de Ricci 928; Hoefer XLIII, 73; Millard 148; Novari, Blackmer Collection, 1473. (5)