Lot 70 of 103:
With 52 original pen-and-ink watercolors by Henri Thiriet  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$3,300
$3,000 - $5,000

Histoirie du 79eme Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne. Par Le Lieutenant L. Clerc. D’après les orders du Colonel de Lanouvelle. Illustrations par Thiriet, soldat au 79éme, eleve à P. Ecole des Beaux-arts. Photographies et Drapeaux par le Lieutenant L. Clerc

Clerc, Lieutenant [Leon-Jean-Baptiste]





Original illustrated title page with 8 plates (six plates with mounted original watercolors of 18 regimental flags; one small flag removed) and 52 original expertly composed and executed pen-and-ink watercolors by Henri Thiriet, including the folio title page plus vignettes and half-page illustrations, also with 21 photographic reproductions from books and artwork mounted throughout. (Folio) 48.2x30.8 cm (19x12¼"), half maroon morocco with maroon pebble cloth, six raised spine bands, spine and front cover titled in gilt, written in black and red, with calligraphic section pages. Also includes a copy of the published version from 1896.

A fine original illustrated manuscript for a history that was later published by the Nancy-based Librarie Militaire Berger-Levrault in its “Historiques de Régiments” series. Clerc’s history primarily covers the Regiment’s campaigns and actions during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars periods (1788-1815).

But more significant than Clerc’s recounting of the various campaigns [and his history of the regiment’s uniforms and its numerous flags] is that this unique volume comprises perhaps the earliest known work by the French painter and poster designer, Henri Thiriet (1873-1946).

Text covers campaigns especially in Southern Europe, Napoleon’s Campaign in Egypt, the defense of Corfu, campaigns in Portugal and Spain, in Russia [e.g., Battle of Friedland, 1807]… then later during the Second French Empire, with action at Sebastopol, the Franco-Prussian War, and the suppression of the Paris Commune (1871). From 1872 to this writing [1895], the Regiment had been garrisoned [it was later to see much action in World War I].

As a concise piece in Wikipedia explains, Thiriet “was a prolific French poster artist, book illustrator and painter. Although responsible for many memorable posters, almost nothing is known about Thiriet’s life and career. He painted in a flamboyant Art Nouveau style, using its characteristic curves and swirls, and a colourful palette to create imagery bearing his clear stamp. Bicycles and their manufacturers are a recurring subject in his work, and the majority of his posters were designed for Omega, Griffiths and Dayton Cycles” [Wikipedia].

Other writers have commented about the absence of biographical information about Thiriet. For example in his work Les Grands Maitres de L’Affiche 1900, Hermann Schardt—who reproduces Thiriet’s large 1900 poster “Exposition de Blanc”— could only state: “Rein de connu sur la carrière.” But here we discover that the 22-year-old art student is not just fulfilling his military service but mastering his talents for color and design.

This regimental history is the earliest of Thiriet’s 60 works cited in OCLC. One of his earliest commercial works was a poster he created for Cycles Omega of Paris—an harbinger of his later great posters for bicycle manufacturers [e.g., see his poster for the Paris-manufactured Dayton Cycles reprinted in Lelieur and
Bachollet’s Célébrités A L’Affiches, 1989, p.29]. Jack Rennert dated the Omega poster to be “vers 1895” [cf 100 ans d’affiches de cycles, 1973]—the same period as this manuscript. And there is a great similarity in the folds and style of the sumptuous draped gown that the emblematic woman representing France is
wearing in this painted manuscript title page with the dress of the winged woman of the Cycles Omega poster.

During the last years of the century, Thiriet created much work for various businesses, such as covers for Belle Jardinére (1898) and High Life Tailors (1899) as well as also creating his famous posters, such as the one for Absinthe Berthelot (1899). He later returned to book illustrating, mostly producing work for adventure stories set in exotic locales, published in the 1920s and 1930s by Tallandier, or the creating work for numerous volumes of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales and stories.

This manuscript is accompanied by a copy of the later published version: Clerc, Captaine [Léon-Jean-Baptiste]. Historique du 79e régiment d’infanterie. Illustrations de Thiriet. Paris & Nancy: Berger-Levrault, 1896. xiii. 339pp. Color pictorial cover, featuring an exact copy of an illustration by Thiriet that is found in the mss volume. This volume only includes 16 of Thiriet’s 52 illustrations—and these reprints are poor-quality redrawn gray versions, but the vibrant and large paintings executed for the manuscript. The original work also has some material not included in the printed edition—such as all of Clerc’s color-painted flags nor his essay in military music, with manuscripts of the Regiment’s two marches. As is evident in the manuscript—which Clerc says was executed with the assistance of the Minister of War— Thireit’s work here is not just dramatic, but also historically accurate. Plus, Clerc obviously won a promotion for his authorship.

Lot Amendments

Light wear to extremities, front hinge split, some dampstaining to pages and light soiling to corners; overall very good.

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