Paris, l’Art Nouveau, 1895.
FIRST EDITION. Tall narrow folio. ff 16 unnumbered leaves of ‘art’ finished card. One of 777 copies. Original black wraps, lithographed in gold, bound in. Entirely lithographed, with 13 full-page illustrations, numerous other lithographic illustrations in gilt and colours including large decorative initials, pentagrams, tarot cards, the illustrator’s hand print, and other occult symbols, bookseller label of ‘Lucien Bodin Libraire’ on verso of of first wrap. Lower edge of first few leaves a little creased, few corners slightly brittle, edges of first leaf with tiny closed tear, the very rare mark. A very good copy in slightly later three-quarter red morocco over marbled boards, red morocco title label gilt on upper cover with gilt stamped dragon in a red morocco triangle below, spine gilt ruled in compartments.
Rare and beautifully illustrated Black Magic calendar, entirely lithographed by the Italian artist Manuel Orazi. This striking publication brings together various elements of sorcery and occultism to produce a wildly unusual subversion of a typical calendar. Finely printed with rich use of colour and gold on mostly black grounds, this work is an arresting example of the esoteric style of art nouveau illustration at the fin de siècle. When Siegfried Bing opened his famous gallery L’Art Nouveau in Paris in 1895, he commissioned Orazi to illustrate Austin De Croze’s Calendrier Magique, an occult calendar on magic and witchcraft for the coming year. A limited edition of 777, based on the mythical and astrological motifs that had become recurrent themes in the artist’s oeuvre, its remains of great interest for the wonderful illustrations by Orazi. “A rare piece of occultist ephemera, printed in an edition of 777 copies to commemorate magic for the coming year of 1896. Each double page spread mimics the Christian calendar in some respect (name days, iconography). The document is at once a spoof and an attempt to chart the year of magic. Its surviving interest resides in the extravagant and compelling illustrations, especially the full-page right hand plates, by Manuel Orazi.” Cornel ‘The fantastic in Art and fiction’.
A native of Rome, Orazi moved to Paris in 1892, and soon gained a reputation as a highly talented Art Nouveau illustrator and poster designer. He designed posters for various Parisian theatres, illustrated the books of Edgar Alan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Pierre Louis, Lorrain and Ovid, and was a regular contributor to Le Figaro Illustré and L’Assiette au beurre. Orazi was fascinated by magic, witchcraft, alchemy and the occult, which found expression in many of his works in the 1890s. Like many symbolist painters of his time, Orazi’s work was both inspired by literature and produced to embellish works of literature. He became friends with many contemporary authors who were connected to the Aesthetic movement, such as Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde and Maurice Maeterlinck. An illustration by Orazi for L’Assiette au beurre’s issue on black magic shows a humorous depiction of a black mass in which a group of well-known dandies, including Maeterlinck, Proust, Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, incredulously ogle a very bored, blasé nude spread out on an improvised altar in front of them.
“The book blends Art Nouveau imagery with references to occult ceremonies, horoscopes, and tarot. The larger images in the calendar are by Manuel Orazi, … The calendar is marked by the Art Nouveau illustrator’s love for the flowing, abundant, tangled look of natural objects. Count Austin de Croze, who compiled the text for the calendar, was a folklorist who wrote on French foodways, cataloging regional specialties and traditional dishes. Did de Croze believe in the magical ideas that he collected in this calendar? Probably not. ..“The Devil is only the symbol of Evil, as God is the symbol of Good,” de Croze writes in a signed statement on the book’s last page, lending credence to the idea that the book was meant to serve as an anthropological curiosity and a work of art, rather than a sincere handbook for occult practice.” Lilly library.
Bib. Esoterica 609; Caillet 8197: ‘fort original et d’une rare exécution artistique’. A copy recently sold at auction for £26,500 (including premium).