Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Grand Rip-Off Of Grandville's Metamophoses Du Jour

by Stephen J. Gertz

In 1828-29, J.J. Grandville, (1803-1847), one of the most celebrated caricaturists of his era, published Les Metamorphoses du jour, a satire of the French bourgeoisie in which he depicted humans whose character was revealed by possessing the heads of beasts, with satiric captions to each lithographed plate. Extremely popular in its initial issue, it is amongst the rarest of all color-plate books.

It was so popular that within a very short time afterward two imitation editions were released by competing publishers in 1828, both designed by the same anonymous artist, Hippolyte Jean-Baptiste Garnerey. One of them, La Métempsycose réalisée (The Mental Metamorphoses Realized), recently passed through my hands.

La Métempsycose réalisée, containing twenty hand-colored lithographed plates, is even rarer than Les Metamorphoses du jour. Exceptionally scarce, with no copies recorded by OCLC/KVK in institutional holdings worldwide  and none at auction, according to ABPC, since at least 1928, it appears that most copies were broken up at an early date to individually sell the lithographs. Generally unknown and scarcely seen, these plates make their Internet (and likely everywhere else) debut on Booktryst.

Garnerey's second album of Grandville imitations is the equally scarce La Petite ménagerie (Paris, Piaget, s.d. [1828-1829]). Grandville bitterly complained about both the albums; they were so obviously and blatantly copycats of his work, down to Garnerey signing only his initial, "G," to some of the plates, which only added to the confusion and what was surely an effort by the publishers (Brussels: Chez Daems / Paris: Chez Méant) meant to deceive the public.

"Les Métamorphoses du jour ont, des leur apparition, provoqué de la part d'autres artistes des imitations, dont Grandville ne manqua pas de se plaindre. V. la planche 33 du recueil de 1829 qui porte cette légende: Il est assez de geais à  deux pieds comme lui... Grandville y fait allusion aux deux albums que publiait, ds 1828, Hippolyte Garnerey et qui sont les suivants: 1 La Metamorphoses réalisée, 20 planches lthographiées; les unes signées G..., la plupart non signées; les 10 premières planches portent l'adresse sivante: A Bruxelles chez Daems et à Oaris chez Meant fils, rue St-Antoine, no. 9. les pl. 11 à 20: A Paris,  chez Genty, éditeur, rue St-Jacques, no. 22 [1828-1829]" (Vicaire).

Little is known about Hippolyte Jean-Baptiste Garnerey (1787-1858) beyond that he was a French watercolor painter, engraver, and lithographer who debuted at the Salon in 1831. 

Grandville established the anthropomorphic human menagerie genre of caricature; Garnerey reinforced it.  In 1851, artist Amédée Varin (1818-1883) further explored the genre with L'Empire des Légumes aka Drôleries végétales; people as vegetables. The following year Varin illustrated Les Papillons Métamorphoses Terrestres des Peuples de l'Air; people as butterflies. These were not, however,  satires; Varin was a fantasist. 

Of Grandville's Les Metamorphoses du jour, Gordon N. Ray, whose The Art of the Illustrated Book In France 1700-1914 is the key reference, wrote, "This famous album, which established Grandville's early stye of bitter burlesque, has become rare. Indeed, it is known to many of his admirers only through the greatly inferior album of seventy wood-engraved reproductions published by Harvard in 1854… Lust, gluttony, anger, and the other deadly sins are stigmatized, now with the blow of a hammer, now with the thrust of a stiletto; while the foibles and humors of mankind also receive due attention. Throughout the series Grandville's choice of beast-heads is inspired; and the force of his conceptions and the wit of his captions rarely falter. Occasionally, he produces a design of universal application that calls Goya to mind, as in the bat and owl creatures bewildered by the sunshine of 'The light that hurts them' (no. 12). Perhaps his most terrifying plate is 'Ménagerie (no. 67), which shows four prison cells. In the first are complacent commercial offenders, enjoying all the comforts of home; in the second violent criminals, sly or stupid; in the third murderers, one with a countenance of the utmost ferocity; in the forth, political prisoners, quiet and despondent…Granville turned to direct political satire in his final plates, but the publication of his onslaughts on church ('Famille des scarabées' no. 72) and state ('Une bête féroce,' no. 73) was not permitted in France" (Ray).

The difference in artistic execution between Grandville and Garnerey is slim; Garnerey was a master imitator. What distinguishes the two are the captions. Grandville was sharp and had bite; Garnerey, while not completely dull, could have used a whet-stone to hone his captions to a finer edge. Yet his captions possess a pleasant charm and the Bibliothéque National possesses a copy of Grandville bound with the two Garnereys; companion pieces in counterpoint,

[GARNEREY, Hippolyte Jean-Baptiste]. La Métempsycose réalisée. Brussels: Chez Daems / Paris: Chez Méant, 1828.

First edition. Oblong folio (9 7/8 x 13 7/8 ini; 250 x 352 mm). Twenty hand-colored stub-mounted lithographed plates in the style of Granville's Les Métamorphoses du jour. Lithography by Gobert et Cie. 

Vicaire V, col. 788.

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

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