At the end of the nineteenth century, the young Italian artist Umberto Brunelleschi moved to Paris. While there, he produced advertising posters, he drew portraits, and he designed sets and costumes for the theatre, including ones for dancer Josephine Baker. He is best known today for his magazine and book illustrations. He published vicious caricatures in the satirical magazine L'assiette au beurre under the pseudonym Arcun Al-Raxid. The book illustrations were much more graceful, inspired by gallant eighteenth-century presentations. The figures were largely derived from the Italian 'commedia dell'arte'. Brunelleschi was associated with Art Deco and with the so-called Liberty style. His style and themes led publishers to ask him mostly for reprints of classic works, like J.W. Goethe or the fairy tales of H.C. Andersen. Alfred de Musset's stories were also a good match for his art. He also became know for his erotic illustrations.
This illustrated edition with three stories by Alfred de Musset is typical for Brunelleschi's gallant style: romantic scenes, wigs, hoop skirts, masks. The first story is set in nocturnal Venice, making it particularly suited to his brilliant colours and commedia figures. The decorative frames and ornaments give it the impression of a deluxe eighteenth-century book. Two antiquated styles were especially popular in the first half of the twentieth century. One of them referred to the Middle Ages, used wood engravings in the text, often printed in bold black and red (see for instance the illustrations of Louis Jou). The other style referred to the French Baroque and Rococo, basing itself on florid illustrations and light, mocking texts. Brunelleschi is clearly an exponent of the latter style.
This book's publisher was Edition d'art H. Piazza. The owner, Henri Piazza (who died in 1929) was one of the few publishers before World War I who was specialised in the livre de luxe. The perfection of the colour illustrations that had been reproduced photomechanically made his books famous. The Musset edition was printed in 500 copies, all on Japanese paper and provided with a stamp bearing the illustrator's autograph.
|Description:||La nuit vénitienne ; Fantasio ; Les caprices de Marianne / Alfred de Musset ; ill. de U. Brunelleschi. - Paris : Piazza, 1913. - 138 p.,  pl. : ill. ; 31 cm|
|This copy:||Number 51 of 500 on Japanese paper|
|Note:||With a stamp bearing the illustrator's autograph|
|Bibliography:||Bénézit 2-893; Carteret IV-298 ; Mahé II-1027 ; Monod 8562|
|Shelfnumber:||Koopm K 42|
- Histoire de l’édition français: Le livre concurrence. Paris, Promodis, 1989
Frontispiece: illustration by Umberto Brunelleschi
Illustration by Umberto Brunelleschi (facing p.80)