Histoire charmante de l’adolescente sucre d’amour or “A charming story of a sweet adolescent love” is a marriage made in Art Deco heaven. Written by an eccentric Egyptian & exquisitely illustrated by François-Louis Schmied.
“A charming story of a sweet adolescent love” or Histoire charmante de l’adolescente sucre d’amour is a love story set in the Middle East. It was written in 1927 by one Dr. Joseph-Charles Mardrus (1868-1949), who described himself as “Muslim by birth and Parisian by accident.” Born in Egypt and educated in Lebanon, the physician and eminent Orientalist was a fixture in the intellectual circles of Paris, where he helped to inspire the rage for all things Oriental.
Mardrus seems a very interesting individual. He once translated a well-received, unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights, into which he inserted a lot of his own invented material. His translation is therefore not wholly authentic. There was already a copious amounts of homosexuality in the ancient book already and Mardrus simply invented and added more. His additions confused the issue of actual homosexuality in the Nights forevermore. Mardrus claimed that his translation was based on a previously unknown “Tunisian text”, but this fictional manuscript has never seen by anyone but him.Inexplicably Mardus was later commissioned by the French government to produce a translation of the Koran.
“Histoire” is an excellent example of the impressive book arts productions of François-Louis Schmied (1873-1941), a man who raised Art Deco to its highest level in the field of bibliophilic publishing in France and someone who generally was responsible (as here) for every aspect of the production of his books. He engraved all of the woodcut decorations and plates for Histoire, and printed them himself as well as designed the layout of the text, which was printed with the assistance of his son Théo and P. Guillemat.
Mardus gives credit to Schmied for the realization of Histoire charmante de l’adolescente sucre d’amour in an inscription: “
“Dear Schmied, it is to please you that this unpublished text has been developed. Without you, without your enthusiasm, it would still be in nothingness. Your friend, J. C. M.”
The Swiss born French painter, wood engraver, printer, editor, bookbinder and illustrator François-Louis Schmied (1873-1941), was all about quality and definitely not quantity. He had an unusual modus operandi for a painter. He produced books. Extremely rare books.
A Schmied book was extremely expensive and time consuming to produce and was always printed in extremely limited edition. Schmied’s print runs usually numbered no more than 100-200 copies. His marketing strategy was to display sheets of his work in progress at an annual Parisian art fair and to procure subscriptions from wealthy bibliophiles and other parties.
In 1910 Schmied was commissioned to engrave and print illustrations by Paul Jouve for Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. It took nine years. The book wasn’t finally published until 1919 and brought Schmied considerable attention. This success allowed Schmied to expand his operations, purchase a Stanhope handpress, and hire a group of craftsmen who helped him produce some of his most famous and pioneering works such as Histoire charmante de l’adolescente sucre d’amour (1927) and Histoire de la princesse Boudour (1926).
During the “Roaring 20s” he’d found suitable patrons lined up to sponsor him, but with the onset of The Great Depression, the economic climate could no longer support his expensive projects and eventually he was forced to sell off virtually all his assets and close down his workshop.
In 1924 Schmied handed over directorship of his studio to his son Théo, an accomplished engraver. Around 1931 or 1932, and for unknown reasons, Schmied was exiled to Morocco. He is considered a major artist in the Art Deco style, particularly in the area of publishing for bibliophiles. With his output being so very minimal it’s a rare as unicorn poo today and as such is highly collectable. Schmied’s work is seductive. His imagery oozes sublime Art Deco style combined with a racey and exotic, sexually charged aesthetic.
Schmied died at 68, in exile on January 1941 in Tahanaout, Morocco.
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