As well as the more explicit works of the prodigious Pierre Louÿs, Marcel Vertès also produced illustrations for several of Louÿs’ less contentious titles, including the ever-popular Les aventures du Roi Pausole. Having said ‘less contentious’, Vertès actually produced illustrations for two versions of Roi Pausole, the first in 1930 with 74 engravings plus fifteen ‘planches refusées’ (rejected plates) which included a number of imagined scenes even more risqué than Louÿs had in mind for the liberal-minded inhabitants of Tryphême. This was a limited edition of 99 copies published ‘Aux dépens d’un amateur’ (at the expense of a private collector), and is now very rare.

A plate from the 1930 edition

Fortunately most of the Vertès illustrations for Roi Pausole were reproduced two years later in a much more affordable edition, and including mostly only those illustrating actual scenes from Louÿs’ narrative. Compared with many of the Pausole illustrators, Vertès brings a lightness and joy to Louÿs’ Mediterranean paradise, with instantly recognisable touches like newspaper stands, bus stops and resort hotels.

The 1932 Vertès-illustrated Roi Pausole was published by Editions du Cap, Monte Carlo, in their ‘Les fermiers generaux’ series, and printed in a limited edition of 5,000 numbered copies.