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Prints and Authors in the Time of Manet

Eugène Grasset
French (born Switzerland), 1841–1917

The Story of the Four Sons of Aymon (Histoire des quatre fils Aymon)

Text attributed to Huon de Villeneuve, French, 13th- century
Relief etchings, letterpress text, 1883
Mrs. George W. Stevens Fund, 1986.29

As a boy Eugène Grasset had pored over books illustrating the life, architecture, and weaponry of the Middle Ages. As an adult, he eagerly accepted an invitation to collaborate with Charles Gillot, the inventor of photo-relief printing, to illutrate the Histoire de Quatre Fils Aymon, an epic of chivalry set during the reign of Charlemagne (730–814). Grasset took two years to produce the 250 pages of watercolors illustrating the adventures of four noble brothers and a magic horse in their battle against the vengeful and treacherous emperor. Influenced by medieval and Near Eastern motifs as well as Japanese woodblock prints, the finished volume was a breakthrough accomplishment in book illustration, beautifully integrating image, ornament, and text.