The 22 sculpted prints of Marcel Pautot’s Images de Provence (1952) constitute an unlikely achievement: a completely original and utterly charming depiction of eastern Provence, from the hand of a sculptor mainly concerned with medals and perfume bottles. It is one of four volumes1 in which Pautot revived the peculiar fin-de-siècle medium of the gypsograph.2
Invented by the sculptor and decorative artist Pierre Roche in the 1890s, gypsographs are embossed prints made with techniques that mimic those used for casting medals.3 Although Roche’s gypsographs still have a following among collectors, and bibliophiles consider La Loïe Fuller (1904)—a book by Roger Marx illustrated with 19 of Roche’s gypsotypes—an estimable prize, few subsequent artists built on his discovery. (In part this may be blamed on the schism between decorative and fine arts: though many 15th-century engravers were gold- and/or silversmiths, few printmakers since then have had much expertise in metalwork.)
Like Roche, Pautot (1886–1963) was not a printmaker by trade, but a metalsmith. Active in Grasse, the great perfumery center in southeastern France, Pautot specialized in decorative objects such as perfume bottles and medals, for which he was frequently commissioned by the French government.
- The text of Images de Provence mentions two prior books illustrated by Pautot: Le Pêcheur de lune and Préludes by Madeleine Luce. I have failed to locate any copies of this last work, or any published references to it, beyond one, undescribed copy sold at auction in September 2014. The fourth book is Pautot’s second volume of Provence scenes.
- Roche also used the terms gypsotypies, estampes modelées and estampes sculptées.
- See Elizabeth Prelinger, “Pierre Roche and the ‘belle gypsographie,’” Print Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 2 (June 1993): 138–155. Unlike Roche, Pautot apparently left no documentation concerning the precise details of his technique.