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A Festival of Books: Christie's Offers a Collection of Illustrated Fete Books
The top lot is an illuminated manuscript of the city’s historic Shrove Tuesday carnival, with 64 full page color illustrations of costumes and floats (Estimate: $80,000-120,000). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2009.

NEW YORK, NY.- Encompassing over five hundred of the greatest and most visually arresting illustrations in the history of festivals and ceremonies, The Paul and Marianne Gourary Collection of Illustrated Fête Books will be offered for sale at Christie's on June 12, 2009. This is the first specialized auction sale of this magnitude to ever take place in America in this important field of bibliophily. The collection covers many famous artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods such as Ludovico Burnacini, Jacques Callot, Jean Cousin, Stefano della Bella, Nicolaus Hozenberg, and Jean Goujon. These sumptuous works record births, baptisms, weddings, anniversaries, elections, coronations, peace treaties, funerals, religious and secular festivals, theater performances, fireworks displays, and other official, political, artistic and musical productions.

For more than fifty years, Paul and Marianne Gourary of New York collected European illustrated books that recorded official celebrations and festivals from the 15th to the 19th century. Both Mr. and Mrs. Gourary shared a passion for opera and art, and actively participated in the formation of this remarkable collection. Small portions of the collection have been exhibited in the past at the Metropolitan Museum and the Grolier Club. Mr. Gourary was a devoted member of the Grolier Club, on whose council he served for fifteen years; in 2001, he was elected to honorary membership, a rare distinction.

Six manuscript Schembart books record the civic spectacles of Renaissance Nuremberg: the Schembart Lauf, which took place from 1449 to 1539. The top lot is an illuminated manuscript of the city’s historic Shrove Tuesday carnival, with 64 full page color illustrations of costumes and floats (estimate: $80,000- 120,000). Schembart books are early and complete records of the performers at these famous festivals in detailed masks and extravagant costumes, richly decorated with embroidery, ribbons, and bells.

Among the earliest works in the Gourary collection is published by Gerard Leeu in Antwerp showing the election of Maximilian I as King of the Romans, which took place in Frankfurt on February 16, 1486, and his coronation at Aachen on April 4 (estimate: $60,000-90,000). The woodcut on the title page depicts Maximilian’s coronation ceremony in the Imperial Chapel. It is a work of great rarity, being one of only two surviving copies, with the other held in the collection of the University library in Göttingen, Germany.

In the 16th century, political visits were momentous occasions celebrated on a large scale. One such celebration was held in Vienna in 1560 to honor the visit of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria, son-in-law of Emperor Ferdinand I and brother-in-law of King Maximilian of Bohemia (estimate: $40,000-60,000). Combining spectacular woodcuts and etchings, it describes in detail the tournaments, staged battles, balls and banquets held in honor of the Duke’s visit.

Another coronation celebration is that of Elizabeth I as Empress of Russia in 1742 (estimate: $30,000-40,000). This superb fête book “has been called the most sumptuous Russian book of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.” Wedding ceremonies are found to be equally lavish, as seen in the dedication copy of the betrothal of the 11-year-old Prince of Urbino to the 12-year-old Claudia de’ Medici, in the city of Florence in October 1616 (estimate: $15,000-20,000). This widely attended event involved masquerade balls, floats and allegorical chariots, and concluded in a breath-taking equestrian ballet choreographed by Agniolo Ricco, shown in this illustration. The etched plates are by Giulio Parigi and Jacques Callot, two of the most celebrated Florentine artists of the period. The Gourary copy is the dedication copy, originally presented to the Prince of Urbino himself.

Christie's | Illustrated Fete Books | Metropolitan Museum | Grolier Club | Paul and Marianne Gourary |

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