A large-paper copy from the library of the Duke of Richelieu

Vien, Joseph-Marie. Caravanne du Sultan à la Mecque: Mascarade turque faite à Rome par Messieurs les pensionnaires de l'Académie de France et leurs amis au carnaval de l'année 1748.

[Paris, ca. 1749].

Folio (368 x 255 mm). Etched and engraved title and 31 etched plates (numbered 1-30 and one unnumbered). Contemporary French red morocco gilt, arms of Louis-François-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac on covers (Olivier 407, fer 15), within gilt border of Richelieu’s repeated motif of two crossed batons intertwined with an ornamental “R”, repeated with coronet within arabesques at the corners, spine gilt in compartments with same motif.


First edition; a large-paper copy with Richelieu's arms. Vien's charming series of etchings depicts the costumes worn by members of the French Academy in Rome for a "Turkish masquerade" held during the Carnival celebrations of 1748. This masque is an outstanding example of the influence the orient exerted on western style during the late-Baroque era, showcasing the degree to which cultural transfer was possible and even a matter of enthusiastic adoption by the west but little more than half a century after the siege of Vienna. The elaborate masquerades at the French Academy constituted an important fixture in the Roman calendar. As director of the Academy, Vien organised the masque of 1748, the fabulous costumes of which are presented here, designed, drawn and etched by Vien himself. The costumes in the present suite are "a curious mixture of authentic Turkish habits and European invention" (Blackmer), showing the stock figures of the Turkish court liberally enhanced with elements of Vien's own concoction. The fantastical nature of the creations is a far cry from the sober neo-classical style with which Vien is commonly associated (his pupils included some of the foremost artists of the period, notably Jacques-Louis David). Vien's original drawings and oil paintings for the Mascarade are held by the Musée du Petit Palais; they were exhibited in Berlin in 1989.

Some marginal dampstaining and foxing, binding rebacked retaining most of original spine, corners repaired. This copy commanded $26,000 at Christie's New York in 1997.

Provenance: from the library of Louis-François-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac (1696-1788), a close friend of Louis XV of France, though critical of Madame de Pompadour. He is supposedly the model for the character of Valmont in Choderlos de Laclos' "Les Liaisons dangereuses".

Atabey 1288. Lipperheide Sm 10. Colas 3005 (suggesting the plates are un-numbered). Hiler 879. Le Blanc II, 122, 8-39. Cohen/R. 1014f. Brunet V, 1211. Cf. Blackmer 1730. Cf. Gay 3644. Graesse VI/2, 311 (Paris, Bassan et Poignan).