A Folio Society limited edition
Introduced by Robert Irwin
Illustrated by Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí’s striking series of 50 watercolours inspired by the 1001 Nights with the tales, introduced by Robert Irwin, printed in a separate volume.
The One Thousand and One Nights – the collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age of the 8th to the 13th century – has enthralled European audiences ever since the first translations appeared in the early 18th century. With their jinn and sorcerers, ghouls and monsters, their evocative, semi-legendary locations and pervasive erotic charge, the Nights have fired the imagination of artists in all media – from the writings of Poe, Flaubert and others to the operas by Weber and Rimsky-Korsakov and, later, countless adaptations in film and television.
The rich visual potential of the Nights has inspired a broader range of illustrators than almost any other text. Edmund Dulac, William Heath Robinson and Arthur Rackham all produced fine work for children’s editions of the Nights, while more sophisticated and painterly approaches were offered by artists as diverse as Kay Nielsen, Marc Chagall and Kees van Dongen. Yet the richest and most nuanced response of all came from one of art’s most distinctive and controversial visionaries, Salvador Dalí.
Dalí appears to have engineered The One Thousand and One Nights commission himself. Giuseppe and Mara Albaretto, a wealthy Italian couple who became enthusiasts and collectors of Dalí’s work, arranged for him to illustrate a series of books for Turin-based publisher Rizzoli. The first of these was the Bible in 1963, but Dalí, who did not share Giuseppe’s deeply committed Catholicism, insisted that the book he wanted to illustrate was The One Thousand and One Nights.
'The One Thousand and One Nights is a compendium of great images which are at once a companion to the stories and independent from them'
‘Even without Dalí’s charisma and sans his art, his work as an illustrator alone would have brought him a well-deserved immortality’
Best known as the painter of such Surrealist masterpieces as The Persistence of Memory (1931), Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) and The Temptation of St Anthony (1946), the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí mastered a staggering range of media, including printmaking, sculpture, fashion and writing in both Catalan and French. His work in film includes collaborations with Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock. Outspoken and controversial – he was expelled from the Surrealist circle for his reactionary views – studiedly flamboyant and unapologetically self-promoting, Dalí’s personality matched his talent both in scale and in its propensity to divide opinion. One unusually underappreciated element of his output, however, is his work in book illustration. Among the more than 100 titles Dalí illustrated during his career are editions of Don Quixote, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a commission from the Italian government to illustrate the Divine Comedy on the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth, and, in 1965, at Dalí’s own request, The One Thousand and One Nights. Many of these illustration sequences provide a disarming contrast to the academically precise execution of his most famous paintings, and confirm him as a profound and sensitive interpreter of literary works.
'The most ambitious and thorough translation into English of the Arabian Nights since the age of Queen Victoria and the British empire'
In his introduction to the accompanying text volume for this edition the novelist, critic and Middle East editor of The Times Literary Supplement Robert Irwin explores the peculiar fascination this commission held for Dalí, as well as giving an insightful analysis of his artistic influences and comparing his interpretation of the Nights with those of other illustrators. An authority on Surrealism, Orientalism and The One Thousand and One Nights in particular, Irwin worked closely with the former Cambridge professor of Arabic Malcolm C. Lyons, whose elegant and idiomatic translation – produced in collaboration with his wife Ursula – provides the perfect companion to Dalí’s beguiling illustrations.
For reasons which remain unclear, the project was abandoned, with Dalí having completed only 100 of the 500 illustrations he had been contracted to produce, all of them dated 1966. Of these, half were retained by Rizzoli and either lost or irreparably damaged. The other half went to the Albarettos and were inherited by their daughter Christiana.
‘Dalí’s images pulse with life in a manner very rarely matched by other artists’
For this Folio Society limited edition, for both ease of reference and protection of the images, the illustrations are collected in an elegant, large-format volume, which does full justice to Dalí’s sumptuous watercolours. Each illustration has a translucent overlay marked with the number of the Night to which it refers in the text volume. The stories have been printed separately in a smaller format more convenient for reading. The two volumes are presented together in a handsome solander box designed by calligrapher Ged Palmer.
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Review by rbalkris on 28th May 2017
"A book of stunning beauty. The illustrations are just masterpieces. The printing and binding are also masterpieces of art in themselves. This is a simply must own limited edition inspite of its price..." [read more]
Review by anon on 4th Dec 2016
"I can't quite get over the sheer beauty of this volume, of both the physical volume itself quarter bound in calfskin and shimmering crushed silk, and Dali's extraordinarily delicate watercolours, repr..." [read more]
Review by MKenny on 3rd Aug 2016
"The Society has done it again, produced a limited edition that is magnificent. If you enjoy Dali's work or have a keen interest in illustrations for literature you should look at this offering. As w..." [read more]