Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee. Sommairement descrite, et representee par figures. Dedié au Roy par Pierre Vallet, son brodeur ordinaire. Pierre / HELIODORUS OF EMESA VALLET.
Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee. Sommairement descrite, et representee par figures. Dedié au Roy par Pierre Vallet, son brodeur ordinaire.
Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee. Sommairement descrite, et representee par figures. Dedié au Roy par Pierre Vallet, son brodeur ordinaire.
Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee. Sommairement descrite, et representee par figures. Dedié au Roy par Pierre Vallet, son brodeur ordinaire.
Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee. Sommairement descrite, et representee par figures. Dedié au Roy par Pierre Vallet, son brodeur ordinaire.
Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee. Sommairement descrite, et representee par figures. Dedié au Roy par Pierre Vallet, son brodeur ordinaire.
Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee. Sommairement descrite, et representee par figures. Dedié au Roy par Pierre Vallet, son brodeur ordinaire.
A Monument of Mannerist Book Illustration in France
“Its Status in the History of Literature is that of a Colossus,
Its Influence Practically Boundless” (Stechow)
Racine's Favorite Novel
Paris, Pierre Vallet and Gabriel Tavernier, 1613.

Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee. Sommairement descrite, et representee par figures. Dedié au Roy par Pierre Vallet, son brodeur ordinaire.

8vo [18.6 x 11.7 cm], (1) f. integral blank, (3) ff., 120 pp., with engraved title page and 120 etchings/engravings, woodcut headpiece and initials, bounding lines ruled in red. Bound in 17th-century red morocco, gold-tooled rinceaux motif on spine, covers with double-ruled gilt borders, all edges gilt, bookplate of Wrest Park (Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent [1671-1740]) inside upper cover. Minor rubbing and edge wear to spine and covers, edge toning to endpapers. The occasional very minor stain, an unobtrusive marginal wormhole (repaired in the early quires), small loss of blank corner of at p. 15 not affecting text. Fine.

Extremely rare first and only edition of the mannerist printmaker Pierre Vallet’s (c. 1575-1657) celebrated illustrated adaptation of Heliodorus of Emesa’s Greek novel Aethiopica (or Theagenes and Chariclea) (c. 250 A.D.?). The volume contains, in addition to its engraved title page, 120 exquisite narrative etchings/engravings, one for each page of the text. Vallet, royal engraver and brodeur at the court of Henri IV and Marie de Medici (and later Louis XIII), capitalized on the vast popularity of Heliodorus following Jacques Amyot’s (1513-93) French translation of the ancient romance in 1547, publishing this brisk poetical redaction of the prose original along with a full suite of original designs which provided readers with visual cues to (an already familiar) narrative about two chaste lovers, exotic Africa, bandits and pirates, race and paternity.

Vallet’s suite represents the most extensive program of Heliodorus illustrations to have been produced, and indeed it is among the earliest, apparently being preceded only by the cycle of 15 paintings (c. 1610) made by the elegant mannerist artist Ambrose Dubois (1543-1614) for Marie de Medici’s chamber at the royal palace at Fontainebleau (see Stiller, Stechow passim). Each leaf of Vallet’s Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee is printed only on the recto and consists of a one-sentence prose ‘argument’ orienting readers to their place in the plot, followed by an engraving and two quatrains of alexandrins in rimes embrassées. The work is thus “organized much like an emblem book with an argument” (Spiller, p. 108), and, as G. N. Sandy notes, “It would be more accurate to say that the few lines of verse accompany Pierre Vallet’s etchings, for the latter clearly comprise the raison d’etre of the book” (Sandy, 121). Such a drastic textual abridgement, in which narrative is communicated overwhelmingly by images, calls to mind modern popular visual forms such as the bande dessinée, but the deluxe nature of Vallet’s publication – which is dedicated to the young Louis XIII (and by extension to Marie de Medici as regent) and here in a copy ruled with red bounding lines in the manner of a fine manuscript – suggests an elevated audience. In the decades following Vallet’s publication, scenes from Heliodorus appeared most often in the decorations of private rooms in royal residences, sometimes commissioned especially for occasions of royal weddings, a curious fact given the vast popular appeal of the text in its various forms (on this matter see Stechow, p. 146).

“The novel, the saga of two young lovers, ostensibly Greek, seeking their destiny and finding it in Ethiopia, became widely popular in Europe beginning in the later sixteenth century, after its translation from Greek into modern languages, starting with French in 1547 by Jacques Amyot, in the service of Francis I. The novel’s impact on writers of the period, especially on the growing market for fiction and the development of the modern novel, was profound and has been discussed ever since … its popularity as a source for artistic representation – paintings, tapestries, book illustrations, and decorative arts [occurred] chiefly during the fifty years following the initial cycle of paintings from around 1610 at the royal court of Fontainebleau” (Spicer, 307). Dubois’ 15 paintings at Fontainebleau apparently had no visual precedent, being invented anew by reference to the text. Vallet’s Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee appeared as the first of a series of illustrated editions and popular prints of Heliodorus published between 1613 and 1630 (e.g., the 1620-23 engravings by Crispjn de Passe the Younger [c. 1597-1664]), illustrations which in turn prompted a new round of commissions for tapestry and painting. Among these are Jean Mosnier’s cycle (c. 1630-35) at the Château de Cheverny; Nicolas Mignard’s (1606-68) cycle for the Hôtel Montréal in Avignon (completed c. 1634-35; now lost); Simon Vouet’s (1590-1649) 1634-35 series for Wideville, the residence of Claude de Bullion, Louis XIII’s finance minister (the paintings are lost, but tapestry woven after their them are extant); Abraham Bloemaert’s (1566-1661) commissions for Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange (1632-33); and Gerrit van Honthorst’s (1596-1650) cycle of panel paintings for the Danish King Christian IV (1634-35).

 Stechow notes of the Heliodorus text that “its status in the history of literature is that of a colossus, its influence practically boundless” (Stechow, p. 145). Rediscovered in the library of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, during the sack of Buda in 1526, the Aethiopica was first printed in Basel in 1534. Before 1560 the tale was translated into Latin, French, English, Italian, and Spanish, with profound implications for the development of modern literary forms: “For the new novel of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Heliodorus laid the groundwork; he was considered the ideal model, and emulated by everyone” (Oeftering, quoted in Stechow, p. 145). Sidney’s Arcadia (1580), Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1601-02), Cervantes’ Persiles y Sigismunda (1616), and Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata (1581), are but a few of the works influenced by the Heliodorus text. Through numerous translations, imitations and dramatized versions of the story, “France … played the major role in the diffusion of the Aethiopica throughout the postmedieval literary tradition of western Europe” (Sandy, p. 110). Exemplary of this influence is an intriguing anecdote (unusual among such tales in that it is generally accepted as true) that as a boy Jean Racine (1639-99) was enamored with the novel: “From the seventeenth century there is the story of how the young Racine, having twice had his copy of Heliodorus (probably in Amyot’s translation) confiscated at Port Royal as unsuitable learning, acquired yet another copy, which he took the precaution of learning by heart, according to his son” (Reardon, p. 13); Racine would later write a play based on Heliodorus (now lost), and its influence on his extant works is widely recognized.

 Modern scholarship about the textual and visual reception of the Aethiopica in Renaissance Europe has increasingly been concerned with exploring matters of race and racial difference: Narrative and descriptive details concerning Africa and its inhabitants found in Heliodorus’ Greek original (and, indeed, the plot is largely motivated by the birth of a white-skinned baby to an African queen) were often altered or altogether suppressed in the various redactions of and illustrations of the Renaissance (see especially Spicer and Spiller).

Vallet is also known for his magnificent flower engravings in Le jardin du roi tres Chrestien, a model book of embroidery patterns for Marie de Medici, and for having etched François Quesnel’s (c. 1543-1619) celebrated 1609 map of Paris.

OCLC locates three U.S. examples of Vallet’s Les Adventures Amoureuse de Theagenes et Cariclee, at Harvard, the Newberry Library and the Library of Congress.        

 * Grässe, vol. 3-4, p. 261; BM STC French, 1601-1700, p. 526; A. P. F. Robert-Dumesnil, Le peintre-graveur français, vol. 6, pp. 101-42; J. Spicer, “Heliodorus’s An Ethiopian Story in Seventeenth-Century European Art,” in D. Bindman et al. eds., The Image of the Black in Western Art, pt. 1, pp. 307-35; W. Stechow, “Heliodorus’ Aethiopica in Art,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (1953), pp. 144-52; G. N. Sandy, Heliodorus, pp. 120-21; on Vallet, see Plakas in Vision of a Collector. The Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection in the Library of Congress, no. 90; E. Spiller Reading and the History of Race in the Renaissance; G. N. Sandy, Heliodorus; B. P. Reardon, Collected Ancient Greek Novels; M. Oeftering, “Heliodor und seine Bedeutung für die Literatur,” Literarhistorische Forschungen, vol. XVIII (1901), pp. 38-166.

Price: $28,500.00

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