“EVEN THE UNDERSIDE OF DECADENT LITERATURE CAN FIND NO POSSIBLE EXCUSE”
D’ANNUNZIO, Gabriele. Fedra. Milano: Fratelli Treves, 1909 (i.e.1927). Small quarto, original full vellum, silver-decorated cover and spine, silk ties, uncut. $400.
Later edition of Italian poet, playwright and film-maker Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Fedra, written for his lover, actress Eleanora Duse— who refused the part—illustrated by Art-Nouveau Italian artist Adolfo de Carolis.
In keeping with the prevailing Decadent aesthetic, Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio “combined in his work naturalism, symbolism, and erotic images, becoming the best interpreter of European decadence” (Liukkonen & Pesonen). Both his sensuous style and his erotic subject matter, however, began to startle his critics. Yet many praised him for offering vitality in contrast to the somewhat stogy work of his contemporaries. D’Annunzio’s Fedra offered no such “vitality.” When asked to play the part of Phaedra, his lover Eleanora Duse replied bitterly “You classified me as an instrument of art which you can take up and throw away. I have already given you everything. I have nothing else left.” At its premiere in Milan, the audience received Fedra with laughter and contempt. Fedra must have been easier to read than to see performed, as this is the fifth edition (first published in 1909). The illustrations are by Art-Nouveau Italian painter, xylographer, illustrator and photographer, Adolfo de Carolis, who made major contributions to the Italian “In Arte Libertas” movement, which embraced the aesthetics of Ruskin and Morris. Text in Italian. Owner signature and pencil annotations of S.V.H. Russo of Arrochar, Staten Island.
A fine copy, with only slight warping to original vellum covers.