Les metamorphoses du jour

The French artist Jean-Ignace-Isidore Gérard went by the name Grandville, which was the stage name his grandparents used. In the early nineteenth-century, Grandville created several hand-colored lithographic books to satirize the bourgeois middle class of Parisian society in the Romantic period. His best, and today the rarest, is Les metamorphoses du jour published in 1829.

The characters of the book have a human body and an animal face, exposing people for the beasts they really are. The preface comments that the artist was thereby able to encompass “both the living picture of social manners and the satire of institutions and prejudices. Truth can circulate with impunity under the very eyes of the men it attacks.”

J.J. Grandville (1803-1847), Les metamorphoses du jour (Paris: Chez Bulla…et chez Martinet, 1829). 73 lithographic plates drawn by Grandville, printed by Langlumé. Graphic Arts (GAX) 2009- in process

The first edition was a huge success and quickly went out-of-print. A new edition was prepared in 1854, this time using wood-engraved reproductions of Grandville’s original lithographs. It is unfortunate that most people only know the series through these poor copies.

Princeton’s Les metamorphoses is a complete set of hand-colored lithographs with the extra two plates issued in 1830 in Belgium and then censored. In addition, the book is extra-illustrated with four lithographs in the style of the series: La chasse et la Pêche (1830), La revanche ou le Français du Missouri (1829), Casse nationale sur les terres royales (1830), and Chasse aux ordonnances (1830?).

Princeton also holds a number of books illustrated by Grandville including Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Voyages de Gulliver dans des contrées lointaines (Paris: H. Fournier ainé: Furne et Cie, 1838). Graphic Arts (GAX) 2005-2172N; along with an original preparatory drawing for Gulliver by Grandville in the Cotsen Collection, (CTSN) Framed Artwork 3976