A Child’s Machiavelli
Beatrice Books, NYC, 2019
A Child’s Machiavelli, 1995 - 2019
A Child’s Machiavelli, was re-published by Beatrice Books, redesigned by its publisher Patrick Reynolds. A Child’s Machiavelli was initially written and illustrated by Hart in 1995, inspired by Niccolo Machiavelli’s Renaissance treatise, The Prince, the first book of political philosophy. Hart’s version began as a series of oil paintings and small catalog, produced by the Realismus Studio, at the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin in 1995.
The catalog was eventually released as an expanded hardcover by Penguin USA in 1998, along with German and French editions. While keeping to the meaning of the original, Hart rewrote The Prince reflecting street values and the voice of youth culture - as if Machiavelli’s book, meant to advise kings on seizing power was a primer to teach good manners to small children. The book has proven prescient, uncannily prefiguring the brutal tenor of contemporary US public discourse.
Hart’s strategy reflected those embraced by the 1990s art world. Mimicking the visuals of a picture book, Hart appropriated 1920s children’s illustrations known for their sugary sweetness. The irony and twisted humor of A Child’s Machiavelli is derived from its combination of opposites: the saccharine speech of kiddie books and the unvarnished reality of American politics. The book went out of print in 2000, but continues to be traded on the second- hand book market.
Originally published in 1995, A Child’s Machiavelli reimagines Niccolò Machiavelli’s political treatise The Prince as an instructional children’s book.
Hart simplifies the core ideas embedded within The Prince by utilizing a child-friendly vocabulary and narrative style that is both comical and unsettling. The artwork in A Child’s Machiavelli, which Hart originally created as a series of oil paintings based on found images from Victorian-era and early 20th-century European picture book illustrations, has been transformed into stark black-and-white reproductions for this edition. The publication design has been simplified in comparison to previous editions, placing it closer to the look and feel of those books that inspired the original artwork.
A Child’s Machiavelli—much like The Prince before it—is arguably timeless in how easily it can be related to contemporary politics. On the eve of the 2020 USA presidential election, the book still manages to slyly and effortlessly incriminate those that would abuse their elected power for personal gain.
The book emerged from a series of oil paintings, a catalog for the exhibition A Child's Machiavelli at the Kunstlerhaus Am Acker, produced by the Realismus Studio, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin in 1995. It was ultimately published as a hardcover book in color in German, French and English editions. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, a treatise written during the Italian Renaissance and long considered the first book of political philosophy, inspired it.
Mimicking the visuals of a picture book, Hart either appropriated 1920s children’s illustrations, known for their sugary sweet style, or created new ones in the same vein. The irony and twisted humor of A Child’s Machiavelli comes from combining two opposites: over sweet, politically correct children’s literature and the tough, unvarnished realities of adult power politics. The book, went out of print in 2000, but continues to be enthusiastically traded on the second- hand book market. Its prices vary from about $150 for a used copy in good condition.