A Large Folio, Rarely Seen Hand-Colored Copy Showing the Sun King's Paintings and His "Miraculous, Surreal" Grotto

TABLEAUX DU CABINET DU ROY. PREMIERE PARTIE. [and] DESCRIPTION DE LA GROTTE DE VERSAILLES.

(Paris: De L’Imprimerie Royal, 1679, 1676). 482 x 340 mm. (19 x 13 1/2"). 1 p.l., 14 pp; 1 p.l., 11, [1] pp. Two works in one volume. Second Edition of the first work (but the first for sale to the public); FIRST EDITION of the second work.

19th century half calf over marbled boards, raised bands, red morocco label (older repairs to joints, hinges reinforced with linen). Title page with royal arms, elaborate headpieces and initials, and 44 VERY LARGE AND IMPRESSIVE ENGRAVED PLATES WITH BEAUTIFUL (modern) HAND COLORING, six of these double-page or folding, captioned in French and Latin. Front pastedown with 19th century engraved armorial bookplate of Rycroft and a rather feminine cipher ex-libris incorporating the letter R; front free endpaper inscribed "Lady Rycroft" in pencil; title page of Part II with tipped-on handwritten note in English about the Grotto. For the second work: Millard I, 69. ◆Paper boards somewhat chafed, joints and extremities a bit rubbed, but the binding solid. A touch of soiling to the title page, tail margins of leaves and plates expertly repaired (no loss to text or images), occasional thumbing, but a very attractive copy internally--clean, fresh, and well-margined, with sharp impressions of the engravings and fine coloring.

Produced by the king's printer, with text by the official court historiographer, this volume combines two important--and very beautiful--records of the Sun King's treasures. First printed in 1677 with 22 plates, but not made available for sale to the public, "Tableaux" reproduces classical paintings in the Louis XIV's gallery, with commentary on the works by André Félibien (1619-95), a prominent writer on art and architecture. The present 1679 edition increased the number of plates to 24 (later editions had as many as 40 plates, though without any notes from Félibien regarding images beyond our first two dozen). The paintings reproduced here include three works by Félibien's friend Nicolas Poussin, as well as those by Raphael, Titian, and lesser French and Italian masters, mostly with classical or biblical subjects. The fine engravings by Edelinck, Picart, Masson, and others are brought to life by the expert, accurate application of color. Although the title here identifies "Tableaux" as the first part of a two-part work, it was produced and sold separately from Part II (the latter depicting sculptures), and the works still appear separately in the marketplace. Our volume also has its own (different) second work, which chronicles the breathtaking but short-lived Grotto of Thetis at Versailles, designed in 1664 and demolished in 1684 to make way for a new wing to the palace. According to Millard, "The grotto was a marvel of technical innovation. Félibien considered it to be a completely successful imitation of Nature by Art. But the nature imitated was unreal and fantastic. Corals, pearls, gold and gilded bronze, precious stones, shells, mirrors, and rock work were used to create an imaginary representation of an underwater cave . . . . The visitor was both awed and astonished by the miraculous, surreal, and lavish display of a palais de rêves [palace of dreams]." The delicate hand coloring enhances the detailed delineations of the engravings to recreate the impact of the multi-hued, bejewelled original. These works appear in the market from time to time, but we have been unable to trace another hand-colored copy.
(ST19421)

Price: $7,500.00