The Story of Angélique and the Illustrator

[Above: Book cover for Angélique]

These illustrations are from various dust jackets from the “Angélique” series of 13 French historical adventure books, written by the novelist duo Anne and Serge Golon known collectively as ‘Sergeanne Golan’. Some of the titles in this series include: Angélique in Love, Angélique and the Sultan, Angélique and the King, Angélique in Revolt and Countess Angélique.

From these titles, you could easily hazard a guess that the emerald-eyed Angélique is a  tempestuous and adventurous girl who seems to ‘get around’ and get involved in some historical fictional hi-jinx. The stories are set in 17th Century France and often revolve around King Louis XIV, his cohorts and various characters of the Parisian underworld, to name but a few.

This series published by Heinemann provided colourful dust jacket illustrations by Italian commercial artist Renato Fratini, who was born in Rome, in October, 1932.

  • He studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma and began his career working on illustrations and comic strips.
  • In 1952, Fratini joined the Favalli brothers’ studio, which was Italy’s biggest producer of film posters.
  • Following the collapse of the Favalli studio in the late 1950s, he moved to Milan and later to London in late 1958, despite not speaking English.

Fratini (along with Eric Pulford) produced cinema poster artwork for Whistle Down The Wind (1961), Phantom of the Opera (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963); as well as many others. Together, they also illustrated most of the posters for the Carry On films starting with Don’t Lose Your Head (1966) up to Carry on at Your Convenience (1971).

Fratini - Angelique 2[Above: Dust jacket for Angélique and the Sultan]

As for book covers, Fratini  completed work for publishers Corgi, Coronet, Hodder, Heinemann and Pan amongst others.  As well as the Angélique series, he illustrated covers for other historical romance novels by Catherine Gaskin, Victoria Holt and Norah Lofts.

[Above: Dust jacket from Angélique In Revolt]

In 1959 Fratini met the fashion designer Georgina Somerset-Butler at a party and they married in 1961 after which she went by the name Gina Fratini. They later divorced.

  • Fratini was known for his exuberant love of life. His ex-wife Gina said of him:”He loved food, drink,  cigars, dancing … he just liked to generally live it up. He adored jazz, and we were always out at Ronnie Scott’s.”

He left for Mexico circa 1970 and attended a beach party in Mexico in 1973 where he died suddenly, reportedly of a heart attack, thus ending his great illustrative legacy.

And if you want to know the fate of Angélique, you won’t find any spoiler alerts here – that would only end In Revolt.

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