The obscure art nouveau illustrator, Emmanuel Joseph Raphaël Orazi, known as Manuel Orazi, was probably born in Rome in 1860 and definitely died in Paris in 1934. Information on Orazi is scant. Yet another “very little is known of” artist.
We can however, know just a little more and get a feeling for the man’s predelictions by a quick examination of the themes and people he chose to work with.
He illustrated the best selling novel, Aphrodite by Pierre Louÿs, a man who began writing erotic literature at 18, aimed to “express pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection”, championed homosexuality and was writing erotic verse on his deathbed. In 1898, Orazi illustrated Ma Petite Ville by the openly gay writer, Jean Lorrain and Baudelaires Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil). Orazi designed jewelery and had it displayed at Maison de l’Art Nouveau and designed sets for the 1921 silent film L’Atlantide.
Orazi was clearly open. Open to sensuality, homosexuality, (at a time when it was outlawed), eroticism and very fond of dark excesses.
In 1895 Orazi created an occult-themed calendar – the Calendrier Magique, a collaboration with a French gastronomer, wine and folklore expert named Austin de Croze. Described as being ”neither big nor tall, but on the contrary dry and nervous, all angles,” De Croze had a “Voltairean face,” and was “a curious and greedy traveler”. The journalist Alain Laubreaux described De Croze as having “traveled the vast land in all directions and talks to you about Chinese cuisine, Nordic cuisine or the traditions of our provinces.” De Croze’s mother was a prominent pianist and he was extremely well connected in Parisian artistic circles (Jules Bois, Verlaine, Huysmans and the composer Ravel).
The Calendrier Magique included 13 full-page color lithographs with gold paint embellishments and was printed in an symbolic edition of 777 copies to commemorate magic for the coming year of 1896. Each double page emulates the Christian calendar (name days, iconography). The document presents as a pagan-style almanac to kick off a year full of magic. Orazi’s illustrations combine Art Nouveau imagery with references to arcane occult ceremonies, horoscopes, and tarot. The accompanying text is by De Croze. It was issued in a portfolio of marbled paper-covered boards with 2 sets of black cloth ties
Strange bedfellows these two – the artist and the food writer. Perhaps they shared a love of exploring pleasure, excess and the occult, a fascination with esotericism. Whatever their connection, the pair’s collaboration produced pure and obscure Art Nouveau occult gold.