In the 1946 portfolio Lettres by Marianna Alcaforado (or Lettres Portugaises) Henri Matisse lends his hand to one of the most beautiful collections of amorous letters of all time. In these personal letters, Marianna Alcaforado, a young Portuguese nun in the 17th century, passionatly expresses her affection and longing for Noel Bouton de Chamilly (a member of the expeditionary force sent by Louis XIV of France to help defend Portugal from the annexation attempts of the crown of Castill).
The love letters were an immediate hit in European literary circles following their original publication in 1699. The letters, in book form, set a precedent for sentamentalism in European culture, and specifically in the literary genres of sentimental novel and the epistolary novel. However, the authenticity of the work remains unclear today. Many scholars believe the letters to be epistolary fiction written by Gabriel-Joseph de La Vergne, comte de Guilleragues (1628–1685).
This livre d'artiste was published by Tériade éditeur in 1946. The lithographs were printed on velin d'Archesm by Mourlot Freres in Paris, in an edition of 250 and an edition of 20 numbered in roman numerals. All editions hand-signed by Matisse on the justification page.
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