Very little is known about this early van Maële portfolio, entitled Nightmare of a Nouveau Riche. It has appeared at auction only a couple of times in recent years, one of those copies, sold by Christie’s in 2006, showing signs of the underlying pencil drawing, suggesting it may have been an early print from a very limited edition. The tantalising title page imprint is Édition de Mrs les Mercantis Généraux (Mrs General Merchant), who may well have been the imagined partner of the recently-wealthy title character.
Each of the ten plates rewards careful study, helped by the captions usefully provided by van Maële, starting with the dream of the ministrations of voluptuous eastern maidens and ending with the Dantesque ‘Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate’ (Abandon hope all who enter here). A salutary portfolio for all nouveau-riches.