In no other of Matisse’s books does one feel the same sense of the artist’s pleasure in his work…

Alfred H. Barr
Matisse: His Art & His Public, 1974

 

This is Matisse’s last book and the one over which he had the most control.  The idea of illustrating the poems of Charles d’Orléans, a fifteenth century French exile in England, came from Matisse himself in 1943 and it was executed after the war with his long-time collaborator and publisher Tériade. In this work Matisse has made not only the illustrations but has also written out the text by hand and enclosed it in his own cartouches.

The subject matter of the poems is courtly love and separation, and it’s not unlikely that the object of d’Orléans’ longing was France herself. D’Orléans was taken prisoner after the French defeat at Agincourt and he was held more or less as a prisoner of war for twenty-five years. His royal connections as the grandson of Charles V and the nephew of Charles VI are shown by Matisse with the many hand-drawn fleurs de lis that appear throughout the book.

The poetry of Charles d’Orléans has attracted the attention of other artists and fine press publishers. Raoul Dufy illustrated an edition of Poésies de Charles d’Orléans for Mermod in Lausanne in 1958 and Jean Frélaut illustrated an edition entitled Ballades, Rondeaux et Complaintes by Lacourière of Paris in 1949.

This edition by Tériade is limited to 1200 copies plus thirty copies hors commerce. The frontispiece lithograph is signed and numbered by Matisse in the stone, and the edition as a whole is signed by Matisse in pencil on the justification page. It contains approximately one hundred color lithographs including fifty-four original illustrations.  Enclosed in a slipcase.

 

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