In 1932 the publisher Paul Cotinaud, who had earlier published the erotic portfolios of Marcel Vertès, commissioned Collot to produce a set of twenty colour plates for a new edition of the selected memoirs of one of the most infamous lovers of all time, Giacomo Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt (pronounced Saint-Galle in the French fashion) – after his exile from Venice to France in 1757 he often signed his works Jacques Casanova de Seingalt. Two years earlier Cotinaud had published a three-volume limited edition of Boccacio with 45 colour plates by Collot; impressed by the artist’s skill and imagination he thought that something a little more risqué was in order. Hence the Mémoires, though interestingly Cotinaud’s name does not appear in the book, suggesting that he felt being identified with it might hurt sales of his more ‘acceptable’ titles.

Two of Collot’s Boccacio frontispieces

Collot’s illustrations for Casanova are more stylised than most of his work, which though accomplished tends to be more conventional. Using curtains and furnishing to frame his subjects, and with a limited colour palette, the Casanova plates share much in common with Jean Dulac’s illustrations for Nous deux (1929), with which Collot may have been familiar.

The Collot-illustrated Casanova was published in a limited numbered edition of 450 copies.