Paris, Jean IV Le Clerc 1595.
FOURTEEN-SHEET MONUMENTAL PRINT 332 x 6108 mm. or 1 ft. 1 in. x 20 ft. (sheets 327/45 x 427/47mm.).
THIRTEEN FULL-SHEET WOODCUTS IN CONTEMPORARY COLOR AND HEIGHTENED IN GOLD (lettered A to N) with ONE FULL-FIGURE AND SIXTY-TWO BUST PORTRAITS OF THE KINGS OF FRANCE horizontally laid out along a woodcut genealogical tree. The trunk and branches have letterpress biographies of the French kings in woodcut cartouches, three smaller woodcut portraits, fourteen brief(er) biographies in letterpress frames and twenty-two woodcut coats of arms of the provinces of France; letterpress title-sheet.
Sheets mounted on heavy 18th-century paper (355 x 462 mm.) and bound on stubs in 19th-century red half-morocco and marbled boards (hinges rubbed), gilt-lettered spine title.
THIS PAPER TAPESTRY links visual and material culture, image and text, architectural decoration and book illustration. It reads left to right and presents more than a millennium of sovereign French dynasties. Woodcutter, printer and publisher, Le Clerc combined commerce, politics, pedagogy and ornament in this elongated frieze, which delighted and educated.
To be pasted onto walls, ceilings and chimney breasts or backed with linen and hung like a painted canvas, it adorned the interiors of private dwellings of aristocrats and urban burghers, town halls, bathhouses and taverns: as portable as ephemeral.
Three editions survive — 1583 (13 leaves, no letterpress “title”, obviously before the portrait of Henri IV; BnF, Angers BM, Basel UB, V&A), 1585 (as 1583 but with a letterpress “title”; HAB) and 1595, the present unique example with the full suite of portraits.
That offered here concludes with an exquisite etched and engraved likeness of the newly crowned Henri IV, beautifully colored then cut out and mounted into the woodcut cartouche left blank for it. In the early 17th-century “oversized prints disappeared with the waning of the woodcut as a dominant technique” (Silver & Wyckoff). With its concluding image in intaglio, the Genealogie bears witness to this transition.
A luxury set of popular prints in superb contemporary color. Notably, the portraits of Charles VII and Louis XI are present here (minor paper flaws in the title and sixth woodcut sheet affect two dozen letters).
¶Grivel, Le Commerce de l’estampe à Paris au XVIIe siècle 249; see Brunet I: 14-15 (1583) and Universal Catalogue of Books on Art Suppl. 235 (“1582” ?= 1583) and Saffroy’s Bibliographie généalogique, héraldique et nobiliaire de la France 10276 (1583, “fort rare”) & 10283 (Vve. D. de Mathonière  = 1596, otherwise unrecorded and not located) and Wyckoff & Silver’s “Size Does Matter” in Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian 11.