Deux vieillards et voilier
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Tittle: Deux vieillards et voilier
(Two old men and a sailboat), pl.4, from the book Lysistrata by Aristophanes (New York: Limited Edition Club, 1934)
Etching On Arches Paper
20.7cm x 13.6 cm (image)
In the mid-1930s, some beautiful, high-quality books were published by a company called Limited Editions Club, which, according to Antiques Roadshow appraiser Ken Sanders, was “famous for re-issuing classics of literature and commissioning contemporary living artists to illustrate 1500-copy signed limited editions.” One of those books—the 1934 Pablo Picasso-illustrated edition of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata—is, next to Henri Matisse’s 1935 edition of Joyce’s Ulysses, one of “the most sought after and desirable limited editions on the market today.”
In Aristophanes’ play, the women of Greece refuse their husbands sex until the men agree to end the Peloponnesian War. The play makes much of the men’s mounting sexual frustration, with several humorous gestures toward its physical manifestations. Beardsley’s drawings offend Victorian eyes by making these scenes into exagerated nudist farce. Picasso’s modernist sketches all but ignore the overt sexuality of the play, the pent up men (image above) as dejected and downcast gentle souls.