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Abito dei Rappresentanti del Popolo Francese: Membri dei due Consigli, del Direttorio Esecutivo, dei Ministri dei Tribunali, dei Messaggeri di Stato Uscieri, ed altri Funzionari Pubblici

Grasset De Saint-saveur, Jacques

Nice. Presso la Calcografia Nazionale, e Presso i Principali Merc[a]ti di Stampe d'Italia. 1796
A very rare Italian-language costume book published under the Directory in 1796 showing the costumes of the Conseil des Cinq Cents.

This rare work, published without attribution as to author, artist or engraver, depicts 19 discrete costumes for the various ranks of legislators and bureaucrats who ran France and her empire under the Directory (1795 - 1799). Although bearing a clear relation (see below) to both Jacques Grasset de Saint Saveur's 'Costume des Représentans du Peuple, Membre des Deux Conseils, du Directoire Exécutif ...&c.' of the same year and the undated but near contemporary large print 'Abiti dei Rappresentanti del Popolo Francese' (see BM catalogue 1861,1012.119), this edition features more plates than the former - there are nineteen - and more accomplished work than the latter. The illustrations are also indebted (as are those others mentioned) to Jacques-Louis David's compositions for the improvement of French civil costume - he was invited to contribute his thoughts and ideas by the 'Comité de Salut Public' in 1793 - in light of republican character and revolutionary mores ('égalité par et dans le costume').

Of particular note, questions as to authorship and intention aside, is the plate 'Agente del Direttorio Esecutivo presso le Colonie Francese' which is the sole illustration to provide contemporary detail and context. The 'Agente' depicted holds a chart showing clearly the islands of Cuba and Santo Domingo, the latter of particular contemporary interest after the abolition of slavery by the National Convention in 1794, the military successes of Toussaint Louverture, the interventions by the British and Spanish and ultimately, the declaration of independence.

Grasset de Saint-Saveur's book was published in French, English and German (described by Lipperheide as 'une contrefaçon médiocre') before this Italian edition. This version has been seen as a work of pure propaganda, intended to disseminate revolutionary French ideas in Italy. The English satirist James Gillray had clearly seen some version of the illustrations and made use of them in his own propagandist manner in the 1798 series 'Habits of the New French Legislators, and other Public Functionaries' in which he depicted the Whig opposition of the day as French (and therefore traitors) dressed in these costumes.

'Edition italienne conforme à la française mais augmentée de quatre planches.' (Colas).

We can trace no examples of this work at auction; the work is rare too in institutions and we can locate only those copies at the V & A, the Kunstbliothek Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Los Angeles County Museum and Brown (the Brown library catalogue ascribes the book to Saint-Saveur).

[Lipperheide (listing the work as a reprint of Grasset de Saint-Saveur) 1784; Colas (after Lipperheide) 1297; see the BM catalogue 1861,1012.119 for a large single sheet also with Italian text and the same subjects].
[24 leaves]. 8vo. (212 x 148 mm). Engraved title with large vignette showing the 'Consigli del Cinquecento' with additional colouring by hand, leaf with letterpress 'AVVERTIMENTO' recto and description of the plates on following leaves (pp. 8) and illustrated with 19 engraved plates each with additional colouring by hand, each with title beneath and numbered at upper right 1 - 19; sheet size: 206 x 140 mm. Contemporary vellum-backed cream boards, manuscript title 'Costumes Françaises' and date '1796' to spine in sepia ink.

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