Paris: Les Éditions Premières, 1949. Limited edition. Hardcover. 1/142. Quarto (10 1/2 x 8 1/2"). 82, pp. Original black dust-jacket over blind paper covered boards adorned with a pink belly band, with a mounted cut-out hand-colored silver gelatin print to front cover and a mounted trimmed title label to spine. Cut-out hand-colored original photograph mounted to title page. Colophon signed in pencil by Hans Bellmer. Laid in, two publisher's inserts for the subscription to the unpublished 1946 edition of "Les Jeux de la Poupée," in the "Collection le Quadrangle Vrille." Book housed in a modern custom-made half morocco over black paper covered chemise, with silver lettering to spine. Chemise housed in its matching black paper covered slipcase.
"Illustrated with 15 hand-colored silver gelatin prints plus 2 cut-outs, Hans Bellmer’s "Les Jeux de la Poupée" (The Games of the Doll) is "the perfect Surrealist object. The Surrealist photographer began to experiment with his disquieting dolls in 1934 - originally crafted from wood, broom-handles, metal rods, nuts and bolts, and plaster - before forming the second iteration which was constructed using ball joints for greater mobility and manipulation.
The images were created during 1936 and 1937 in his native Germany, after which Bellmer fled to Paris, where famed fellow Surrealist Paul Éluard selected fourteen images to be compiled into a book that would couple Bellmer’s photographs with extensive text written by Éluard.
A small edition titled "Poupée II" was created, but with the advent of the Second World War its publication was brought to a halt. A more elaborate edition, this time with hand-colored photographs was published by Éditions Premières in Paris as "Les Jeux de la Poupée," and released ten years later in an edition of 142.
"Les Jeux de la Poupée" dives deep into the realm of the uncanny. The doll, never anatomically complete, and clearly constructed from artificial parts, nonetheless evokes fear and sympathy from the viewer who cannot help but feel empathy for this tragic figure. Photography, with its unbreakable tie to the real, plays a significant role in the Doll's surreal power, in what scholars Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingston describe as “the seeming contradiction between the extravagant productions of the unconscious and the documentary deadpan of the camera.”
"The original photographs placed within the book feature Bellmer’s doll posed in a series of sinister narrative tableaux, however on the front cover Bellmer placed a print that has been trimmed to the edges of the doll itself, divorcing her from an semblance of reality. A nearly abstract form composed of two hips joined by a large ball-joint, lit from opposing sides and colored pink and yellow, the self-contained form appears a duality - conscious and unconscious, reality and fantasy. Like a reoccurring, effusive dream, we are greeted by another trimmed print on the cover page, a twin of the doll on the cover who has followed us into the book’s depths.
Hans Bellmer adopted his controversial practice - the creation of provocative, often grotesque sculptures of pubescent female dolls - in the 1930s to rebel against the artistic rules and standards of beauty imposed by the Nazi government. After moving to Berlin in 1923, Bellmer became close with the Dada artists, particularly George Grosz, a politically minded painter who furthered Bellmer’s distrust of government. Fearing that his art would be outlawed by the Nazis as “degenerate”, in 1934 Bellmer sought acceptance abroad with André Breton and the French Surrealists, who embraced his work for its revolutionary nature and libidinous engagement with female youth.
In addition to his sculptures, Bellmer produced prints, photographs, and drawings, always dealing with themes of abject sexuality and forbidden desire. Also a writer, he referred to his doll projects as “experimental poetry.”" (For more information, see: Princeton University Press, "Surrealism: Desire Unbound," pp. 212, 214-215 ; Taylor, "Hans Bellmer: The Anatomy of Anxiety").
Our comparison of various copies reveals that Bellmer developed each image with different degrees of contrast and exposure, and distinctive different hand-coloring, thus making each copy of this work unique.
The size of the 15 larger photographs varies slightly, but mostly around 5 3/4 x 5 3/4". Each cut-out photograph measures 3 1/4 x 2".
One of 120 numbered copies with the 15 photographs, of which this is No. 101, of a total edition of 142.
Dust-jacket and spine faded and slightly rubbed along edges. Pages slightly rippled and age-toned. Text in French. Slipcase and chemise in very good, dust-jacket and blind boards in good, interior in good to very good, original photographs in very good condition. g to vg. Item #45043