Paris, Jean Ribou, 1668.
12mo of (2) ll. 81 pp, (2) ll. for the end of the privilege, (1) bl. l. Full red jansenist long-grained morocco, ribbed spines, double gilt fillet on the edges, inner gilt border, gilt edges on marbling. Binding signed by Mercier.
153 x 88 mm.
First edition of this comedy by Molière in one act, first performed on 14 February 1667 at the Château de St-Germain-en-Laye.
Tchemerzine, IV, 782.
“The comedy of the ‘Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre’ was included in the Ballet des Muses by Benserade, the Court’s resident poet. Despite the richness and variety of the entertainments offered to the King, the evocation of the Orient was still missing. So Molière wanted to fill this gap.
At the time, there were few details on the customs of the Moors and Turks. Molière, who was not lacking in imagination, presented fantasy characters in his own way.
The King declared himself very satisfied and as he did not disdain to take part in the entertainment offered to him, he played a part in this fine and witty comedy by appearing in the final masquerade of the play in the costume and features of a quality Moor.
The success of the performance was very clear and the ‘Sicilian’ immediately took its place among Molière’s great successes. The cadenced prose he used on this occasion was perfectly suited to the music and Robinet did not hesitate to qualify this new theater expression as a masterpiece.
On 10 June 1667, the public performance took place in Paris, at the Palais Royal Theatre, and was very popular with the audience. The ‘Sicilian’ was performed 17 times in June and July 1667, and twice more before Molière’s death.
The play won over the literate public above all with its elegant lightness and the charm of the characters.
The Parfaict brothers, in their ‘Histoire du Théâtre Français’ perfectly summarised the general opinion of the Sicilian’s comedy. It is the only one-act play,’ they wrote, ‘where grace and gallantry are discovered. The other little plays, which Molière gave only as farces, usually have a more buffoonish and less pleasant background. The finesse of the dialogue, and the portrayal of love in an Italian and a French lover, are the main merit of this play, which is adorned with music and dances. (Guibert, I, pp. 199-203)
“There are many lively and delicate passages in the Sicilian which are not without a hint of Marivaux and Musset”. (Dictionnaire des Œuvres, VI, pp. 127-128).
“The privilege is dated the last day of October 1667. This comedy is described as ‘beautiful and very pleasant’, which is a peculiarity all the more remarkable, as the King’s privileges never contain literary appreciations, as one finds in the ‘approvals’.” (Lacroix, Bibliographie moliéresque, n°14).
A beautiful very wide margined copy (height: 153 mm vs. 147 mm for the James de Rothschild copy) of this first edition, finely binded in red morocco by Mercier.
Our research has enabled us to locate copies of this rare original in only 3 French public institutions: B.n.F., Bibliothèque du Château de Chantilly and Bibliothèque de Reims.