Paris: chez Jean, rue St. Jean de Beauvais, No. 10, circa 1820. Engraved game board, printed recto only on a sheet measuring 19.5 x 22.5 inches, plate mark measuring 17 x 22 inches. Discoloration to margins from old mat, not affecting engraving; light edgewear.
Early nineteenth-century French table game freely inspired by classical antiquity. A variation on the traditional jeu de l’oie, or game of the goose, the board features a spiral track of sixty-three spaces decorated with Olympians and mythological heroes, centaurs and fauns, muses and mummies, as well as historical figures including Caesar, Cleopatra, Seneca, and Plutarch. Rolling dice to chase one another around the track, subject to the rules outlined in the center of the board, players could brush up on their art history and archaeology as they raced. The opening space, La Marchande d’Amours, references a recently excavated fresco at the Villa Arianna south of Pompeii, a subject made fashionable by contemporary artists like Joseph-Marie Vien and Francesco Bartolozzi. No fewer than eight spaces on the board depict Venus in poses based on Greek and Roman sculpture, including the Venus Callipyge and the Crouching Venus. The publisher of this game, the multi-generational family firm of Pierre Jean, appears in the Bibliographie de France from 1811 to 1838 at this address. Text in French. A scarce and handsome survival.