Following the success of Salammbô and Bilitis, Rombaldi commissioned Lobel-Riche to illustrate a new edition of Les Diaboliques, a collection of short stories written by Barbey d’Aurevilly and first published in 1874. Each story features a woman who commits an act of violence or revenge, and is considered d’Aurevilly's masterpiece. The deeds committed by the characters in the stories are induced not only by their extreme passion but also by their boredom. Some of the characters spend hours playing whist, while others take delight in wearing fine clothes. All of the female characters are strong and independent, and also very good at concealing their passions.
This was not the first time that Alméry Lobel-Riche had illustrated Les Diaboliques; he had much earlier produced 38 engravings for an edition by Librairie de la Collection des Dix; we have included several of these here after the seven Rombaldi illustrations.
The cruel imagination of d’Aurevilly clearly appealed to Alméry. As Henri Babou writes in the introduction to his 1929 study of Lobel-Riche, ‘d’Aurevilly’s harsh, colourful, proud style well matches the artist’s imagination. Unlike tamer illustrators, he produces a vision which further increases the mystery of souls. Far from being concerned by their strangeness, he explores it and seeks to make the heroines of these unusual stories plausible. Of their demonic souls he shows us their all-too-human aspects’.
The Rombaldi Diaboliques was published in a limited numbered edition of 3,500 copies.