Bécat was late to the party as an illustrator of Aphrodite, the highly popular 1896 novel that brought Pierre Louÿs to wide public attention. It had already been illustrated by Clara Tice in 1926, Serge Czerefkov in 1928, and Mariette Lydis in 1932, and it is rather surprising that nobody before l’Éditions d’Art H. Piazza had commissioned Bécat to illustrate the Louÿs classic.
Aphrodite tells the story of Chrysis, a courtesan, and the sculptor Démétrios, and is the classic theme of spurned love which turns into obsession and punishment, with the underlying message of the limits of mortality. Louÿs originally intended his novel to be published in a limited edition for his friends, but a glowing review by François Coppée in the Mercure de France, helped to no small extent by the libertine scenes scattered throughout the book, turned Aphrodite into a bestseller, inspiring artists, sculptors and composers to produce works based on the novel.
The illustrations for this edition are classic Bécat, but neither the composition nor the reproduction do full justice to his skill and imagination, especially for such an important and commercially-attractive commission.
The Piazza edition of Aphrodite was published in a limited numbered edition of 3,200 copies.