Following the success of Salammbô and Bilitis, Rombaldi commissioned Lobel-Riche to illustrate a new edition of Les diaboliques (The She-devils), a collection of stories written by Barbey d’Aurevilly and first published in 1874. Each of the six stories 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 earlier produced 38 engravings for a 1910 edition by Librairie de la Collection des Dix, which you can see here.
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’.
In 2015 Minnesota University Press published an English translation of Les diaboliques. Titled Diaboliques: Six Tales of Decadence, the excellent translation is by Raymond MacKenzie, Professor of English at the University of St Thomas.
The Rombaldi Les diaboliques was published in a limited numbered edition of 3,500 copies.