“Such is life. What is it but a play, where everyone plays a character under a mask?”

More than four centuries on, Devambez captured the satirical finesse of Erasmus’ famous work In Praise of Folly, commissioning Ferdinand Bac to provide the illustrations for a prestige edition published in 1919. Bac responded with ten lithographs replete with complex cultural references and biting irony.

A distant cousin of Napoleon III, Bac spent his childhood in the rarefied milieu of European royal courts and later left Germany to live a Bohemian life in Paris. His passion for beauty made him a refined landscape artist and a man of letters surrounded by figures such as Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Barbey d’Aurevilly.

In Praise of Folly was meticulously produced and printed in a limited edition of 250 copies signed by the illustrator. It shows how Bac’s visionary skill combined perfectly with the expertise that made the Parisian publisher famous as a true ‘artist of paper’.

Ferdinand Bac, L’Éloge de la folie: dix lithographies originales, Devambez, Paris, 1919