Construction d'un temple en ruine à la déesse Vanadé

Year: 1975

Author: Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922 - 2008)

Artist: Paul Delvaux (1897 - 1994)

Publisher: Bateau Lavoir

Construction d'un temple en ruine à la déesse Vanadé, title page

Construction d'un temple en ruine à la déesse Vanadé came into being from a collaboration between French author Alain Robbe-Grillet, known as a representative of the Nouveau-Roman, and Belgian artist Paul Delvaux. Together with their printer, they worked on this 'dialogue' between word and image for four years.

Their method was as follows: Robbe-Grillet first wrote a text, to which Delvaux then replied with an engraving that expanded or altered the themes from the text. Sometimes he would address a new theme entirely. Robbe-Grillet then responded with a second text. This is how the building blocks for this artist's book came together, upon which it was then constructed like a temple.For example, there is a clear interaction between the print 'Dans la cellule génératrice' and text page 9, where Robbe-Grillet points to the inscription 'Règlement' and says that the scene resembles that in a prison with high windows.

Le Bateau Lavoir

Mira Jacob, a private collector of symbolist-surrealist paintings, was the one who initially provided the commission for this edition. She established a gallery in 1955 on the Rue de Seine in Paris, naming it after the famous artists' studio in Montmarte where Picasso, Reverdy and Van Dongen had been based: Le Bateau Lavoir. She was also the one who encouraged Paul Delvaux during their first meeting in 1965 to start making lithographs. For this book he produced a number of engravings, some of which are dry-points.

Engraving by Paul Delvaux ('Dans la cellule génératrice')

Paul Delvaux

The artist Delvaux (who referred to himself as a 'poetic realist', refusing to pass for a symbolist or a surrealist) was known for his images of nude women pictured as cold marble statues in a dreamlike world. For this reason, Delvaux's work is sometimes referred to as the theatre of courtesans. On the engravings for this edition, the female figure is not only nude or dreamlike: she is often literally pictured in the foreground. She is seen painting, lying on a canapé, reading, or regarding herself in the mirror. Attentive viewers will be surprised by Delvaux's scenic paintings in which a Belgian streetcar passes a Greek temple…

Engraving by Paul Delvaux ('Entreacte')

Fequet et Baudier

Another duo was made up of Marthe Fequet and Pierre (Albert) Baudier, the publishers of this artists' book. Marthe headed the company together with Pierre, and it acquired great renown in the printing of artists' books, especially those of Henri Matisse and Nicolas de Staël. At the age of nine, Marthe was taught by her father, who was a printer himself, how to handle lead letters on the printing press in his typographic studio. Pierre had been professionally trained as a printer. Their success was not only due to the quality of their printing, but also thanks to the charm of Marthe, who was responsible for the reception and supervision of the artists. They each had their own specific demands. But the market for artists' books changed, the company Fequet et Baudier was in financial dire straits, and ultimately the entire studio was sold for an amount of 250,000 euro to Robert Dutrou, who would continue the tradition of the artists' book together with his wife Lydie.


This edition from Fequet and Baudier is striking due to its oblong shape. The text was hand-set by François Da Ros, who produced numerous editions for the flourishing Fequet et Baudier business between 1964 and 1978. Da Ros was later appointed master-typographer (Maître d'Art). The engravings were printed on Piero Crommelynck's engraving press, who was once Picasso's favourite engraver.

Bibliographical description

Description: Construction d'un temple en ruine à la déesse Vanadé / Alain Robbe-Grillet ; [eaux-fortes et point-sèches orig. de] Paul Delvaux – Paris : Bateau Lavoir, 1975 – 103 p. : ill. ; 43 x 55 cm

Printer: Fequet et Baudier (text), Crommelynck (engravings).

Edition: 187 copies

This copy: Unnumbered h.c.-copy on Arches with the Bateau Lavoir water mark, next to the 187 numbered copies on the same paper.

Typeface: Baskerville

Note: Signed by the author and the artist.

Bibliography: Bénézit 4-424

Shelfmark: KW Koopm E 64


  • Z. Barthelman, Paul Delvaux: Odyssee van een droom. Sint-Idesbald, Paul Delvaux Stichting, 2007
  • Collection Mira Jacob Galerie le Bateau-Lavoir. Paris, Sotheby's, 2004
  • Virginie Devillers, Paul Delvaux: Le théâtre des figures. Bruxelles, Editions de l'Université de Bruxelles, 1992
  • 'Hommage à Piero Crommelynck', in: Nouvelles de l'estampe, 178 (2001), p. 72-77
  • Christian Milat, Robbe-Grillet: Romancier alchimiste. Ottawa, David, 2001
  • Marcel Paquet, Paul Delvaux et l'essence de la peinture. Paris, Editions de la Différence, 1982