Le Cantique des Cantiques, frontispiece

Barbier’s first two illustrated book projects were inspired by theatre and dance – Dessins sur les danses de Vaslav Nijinsky in 1913, and Album dédié à Tamar Karsavina in 1914, but his first illustrated book to include the nude figures which were to become an important element of his work was Dix-sept dessins de George Barbier sur le Cantique des Cantiques (Seventeen Designs inspired by The Song of Songs), published by La Belle Édition in 1914 in a print run of 240 copies.

The gold and black illustrations, clearly inspired by Aubrey Beardsley, are printed from wood blocks on heavy paper, and display the elegant simplicity and confidence of line which weould become the hallmark of George Barbier’s output.

Le Cantique des Cantiques, title page