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RILKE, Rainer Maria (pref.); BALTHUS.


Quarante Images. Preface de Rainer Maria Rilke.

Erlenbach and Leipzig: Rotapfel-Verlag, 1921 Stock Code: 130902
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Balthus's notably scarce first publication

First edition, first impression, of Balthus's notably scarce first publication. Balthasar Klossowski de Rola (1908-2001) created this pictorial tale of a child's love for, and loss of, a cat, from a series of uncaptioned ink drawings at the age of 11. The work's drawings are "animated with the fervour of an intense child eager to tell his tale.. the pen strokes are bold and decisive, the imagery and atmosphere clear" (Fox Weber, p. 21). Balthus's creative endeavours were championed by Rainer Maria Rilke, who was at the time the lover of Balthus' mother, the artist Baladine Klossowska. Rilke put his literary weight behind the work by arranging the publication and providing the preface, which was the first work he composed entirely in French. "Rilke knew he had to write this Préface à Mitsou in order to turn the boy's efforts into an enterprise that could be taken seriously by adults, but the short prose essay also represented a turning point in his own career" as it allowed him "his first liberating experience in writing with some precision and elegance in the language he had chosen to adopt" (Freedman, p. 370). Rilke had a close and collaborative relationship with Baladine and her sons, writing to them for advice editing the preface, "Advise me, you as well as Pierre and Balthusz, put your heads together and compare! After all, there is no school tomorrow, so you can all concentrate on this" (Fox Weber, p. 48). Balthus gifted the original plates of the work to Rilke in 1921.

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Octavo. Original cream paper wrappers over limp boards, titles to front cover in black. Housed in a black flat-back cloth box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Illustrated with 40 graphite and ink drawings by Balthus.


Ownership inscription in pencil to front free endpaper. Loss to head of spine, chips to rear spine joint and foot of spine, browning to spine and wrapper edges, wear to extremities, a very good copy of this fragile publication.


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