French romantic writer Théophile Gautier’s 1836 novel Fortunio, originally entitled L’Eldorado, tells of the mysterious Fortunio, ‘son of the East’, who creates for himself an oriental paradise in the heart of Paris, and whose protegés, the dandy George and Musidora, ‘she of the beautiful sea-green-eyes’, are left to wonder what of Fortunio’s world is real and what is fantasy.

Beautifully illustrated by Gerda Wegener in 1934, whose Fortunio portfolio you can see here, it was quite a challenge for Henriette Bellair to produce anything quite so stunning, yet her simple, accomplished drawings succeed through their use of shading and subtle highlight colouring to add a new dimension to Gautier’s imagined world.

Fortunio was published by Georges Briffaut, Paris, in a limited numbered edition of 1,550 copies.