This charming primer on the alphabet captures the essence of everyday life among the French aristocracy in 1814 in a uniquely detailed series of watercolor drawings made as an alphabet book for a young French aristocrat by his uncle. The drawings give fascinating views of the family chateau and its grounds, its elegantly appointed interiors, the private chapel, as well as the kitchen, workshops, and stables. The boy's clothing and pastimes are all minutely illustrated as are his instruction in polite manners, music, and the arts. The pages are full of amusing puns and now obscured meanings-the French captions translated into the English of the period-preserving a life of enchantment and privilege which has long since vanished.
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Charles Plante is the director of Charles Plante Fine Arts, one of the leading British antique galleries specializing in watercolors, drawings and the decorative arts of the neoclassical period (1760-1840). His previous books include Inside Out: Historic Watercolor Drawings, Oil Sketches and Paintings of Interiors and Exteriors 1770—1870 and Designs for Gilt Bronze Objects for the French Restoration 1814—1830.Review:
A handful of little books rounds out the list. The most curious, "A French Alphabet Book of 1814," is a set of wonderful watercolors executed by Arnaud Bourdier de Beauregard, a French noble, for his young nephew. There's a Magritte-ish quality to the carefully illustrated and labeled objects, most of them simple, everyday articles like scissors or playing cards. Bourdier had a playful sense of opposition. The same page might include a toad, an obelisk and a watch, for example. This is an alphabet book with metaphysical wit. -- New York Times Nov/Dec 2007
"...a charming collection of watercolor illustrations of French country life, along with lovely examples of hand lettering. It would make a wonderful gift for type lovers and Francophiles alike." -- HOW MAGAZINE - 10/4/2007
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