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.

Bécat was commissioned by Georges Briffaut to illustrate Fortunio in 1946, following in the footsteps of Gerda Wegener; his illustrations are typical Bécat, probably not helped by the plethora of commissions he was working on immediately after the war, nor by the relatively poor quality of the two-tone reproduction. Fortunately Bécat was offered a second chance to illustrate Fortunio a decade later, an edition which provided him with the opportunity to use his artistic and imaginative skills to the full. You can see the 1956 Raoult version here.

The Bécat-illustrated Briffaut edition of Fortunio was produced in a limited numbered edition of 300 copies.