Jeanne Duval, the Naughty Flower

Jeanne Duval

Born in Haiti, Jeanne Duval moved to Paris in her early 20s. Dark and exotic, she work in theaters and cabarets and fascinated men with her raw sexuality. For awhile Jeanne was lovers with the photographer Nadar. But it was Baudelaire who became a permanent fixture in her life.  The poet immediately fell in love with Jeanne while watching one of her shows.  Dressed in a long red dress, Jeanne was singing risqué songs with vibrations Baudelaire couldn’t resist. Not only was this the beginning of a relationship that would last more than 20 years, it was also the beginning of Baudelaire’s fame as a poet.  Because it was Jeanne who inspired his Les Fleurs du Mal, those evil flowers that kept Baudelaire awake at night walking around  Paris looking for spleen. Like Poe and the gargoyles, Baudelaire liked the grotesque.

Jeanne Duval

Baudelaire was quite quirky. For example, he compulsively washed his hands and always wore a pair of light pink gloves for extra protection.

Jeanne Duval

For Baudelaire, women were a promise of pleasure and an invitation to happiness. And, above all, a means of combating boredom, L’ennui,  because women gave you something to do. Like suffer and despair. Or write naughty poetry.

Jeanne Duval

Baudelaire wrote several poems inspired by Jeanne (sometimes referred to as the Black Venus poems) such as “Les serpent que danse”, “Les Bijoux”, “Parfum exotique”, and “Le vampire” where he says having sex with Jeanne was like being bitten by a vampire—both left one powerless. Baudelaire seemed to have suffered from the Vagina Dentata Syndrome. In his poems, he had her dance like a snake (even though snakes don’t dance), dress only in jewelry, and smell like tamarind. Eroticism let him transcend the nothingness of his daily life.

Jeanne Duval

Jeanne Duval

Famous is his letter about Jeanne’s La chevelure.  Baudelaire says her hair contains a dream filled with sails and masts. And every time Baudelaire sees her long black braids, he wants to bite them.

Jeanne Duval

Baudelaire was friends with Courbet. In The Painter’s Studio, Courbet portrays Baudelaire sitting by the door reading and Jeanne standing not far from the door. During one of Jeanne’s and Baudelaire’s many separations, the poet asked the painter to cancel his presence in the painting.  Not even on canvas did Baudelaire want to be near Jeanne. Courbet obliged but Jeanne must have used some voodoo magic because, years later, Baudelaire’s image resurfaced.

Jeanne Duval

Baudelaire was also friends with Edouard Manet and the two often took walks together at the Tuileries. Manet agreed to paint a portrait of Jeanne, already sick with syphilis and half-paralyzed. She wears a stiff crinoline which dominates the painting.  Baudelaire was not impressed.

Manet's Jeanne Duval

Even though he appreciated Manet’s taste for modern reality and his vivid imagination, Baudelaire was fixated with Delacroix. When Manet’s Le déjuner sur herbe was rejected by the Salon, Baudelaire, writing as an art critic, showed no solidarity towards his friend.  Baudelaire’s conscious must have bothered him because on his deathbed he called out “Manet, Manet” a short time before his death.

Baudelaire on his Death Bed

[from The Diary of Luz Corazzini]

drawing

Endnotes for Jeanne Duval  (1820-1862):

Jeanne’s residence in Paris is generally given as 6, rue de la Femme-sans-tête (Street of the Headless Woman), near the Hôtel Pimodan (now renamed rue Le Regrattier located at île Saint-Louis), Paris.
At the end of 1855, Baudelaire and Jeanne lived together in the area of Boulevard du Temple at 18, rue d’Angouleme 23, Paris.
The portrait of Jeanne by Manet was painted at Manet’s studio at 8, rue Médéric (formerly Guyot), Paris.
Courbet’s studio was at 32 Rue Haute-Feuille, Paris.
Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio is at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
The Tuileries, Paris.
Links:
Baudelaire and the Arts
Odilon Rendon’s illustrations of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal
Bibliography:
Hiddleston, J. A. “Baudelaire, Manet, and Modernity “.The Modern Language Review,Vol. 87, No. 3 (Jul., 1992), pp. 567-575. Published by: Modern Humanities Research Association Retrieved 28/10/2016 https://www.jstor.org/stable/3732920.
Zappel, Chelsea.  “Reconceptualizing the Past: Exploring the Material Realities in Angela Carter’s Black Venus”. Senior Paper For a Degree Bachelor of Arts with A Major in Literature at  The University of North Carolina at Asheville. Fall 2013.  Retrieved from internet 30/10/2106 http://toto.lib.unca.edu/sr_papers/literature_sr/srliterature_2013/zappel_chelsea.pdf
Tillotson, Victoria P. “A Materialist Feminist Reading of Jeanne Duval: Prostitution and Sexual Imperialism from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present Day” in Materialist Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference, and Women’s Lives, ed. Rosemary Hernessy and Chrys Ingraham (New York, 1997). Retrieved 30/10/2016  http://www.hu.mtu.edu/~rlstrick/rsvtxt/hennessy1.pdf

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The Gaze of Victorine Meurent

Victorine Meurent

The woman in the painting was looking at her.  Luz was at the Musée d’Orsay in front of Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur herbe. The woman in question was sitting on the grass totally naked next to two men fully clothed.  Luz knew that the painting had created quite a scandal and that the first time it had been shown, an outraged man tried to hit it with his umbrella.

Victorine Meurent

Le Dejeuner  made viewers uncomfortable mainly  because of the way that the model, Victorine Meurent, looked at them. Men, accustomed to rubbing their eyes all over women’s bodies, could not accept Victorine’s gaze that said “instead of you looking at me, I’m going to look at you”.  Women were not considered their equals.

Victorine Meurent

Luz knew that Victorine, Manet’s favorite model, had often been described by  art historians as a drunk and a prostitute.  But it wasn’t true. Victorine was a woman from a poor family who wanted to be an artist. She sang in cafes, gave violin lessons, and modeled just to earn money for art lessons. And, in 1862, going from one gig to another as a street musician playing her guitar in cafes, she met Manet. Intrigued, Manet asked her to model for him. He painted her eating cherries on the street, as a matador without a bull, and as a woman with a child near Gare Saint-Lazare.

Victorine Meurent

Victorine also posed for the paintings considered to be Manet’s most scandalous: Le Dejeuner sur herbe and, Olympia (who’s wearing only a black ribbon and a pair of slippers). It wasn’t as if women had never been represented without clothing before. But they had been represented as goddesses or mythical beings who were nude but not naked.

Alone I am nude. In front of you, I am naked.

Because artists’ models of the time did not have the same consideration as today’s top models, they were often considered as little more than prostitutes who often slept with the artists who painted them.  However, it’s unlikely that Victorine had a relationship with Manet since the artist suffered from syphilis and died of it at the age of 51 whereas Victorine lived to be 83. Plus she seemed to have a preference for women.

Victorine had one of her paintings accepted by the Salon the same year Manet had been rejected. In all, she was accepted by the Salon six different times and, in 1903, accepted as a member of the Sociéte des Artistes. Nevertheless, the art critic  Adolphe Tabarant, saw her not as an artist but simply as a drunk aging beauty who had arrived at a “fin douloureuse”. He even wrote that Victorine was dead even though she was still alive and painting.

When in her 40s, artist Norbert Goeneutte painted Victorine with her guitar. Then, too old to model and unable to earn enough money from her paintings, Victorine became an usher in a theater until she moved to Colombes outside of Paris.  Here she lived with the piano teacher, Marie Dufour, for 20 years.

Victorine Meurent

After the death of Victorine and Marie, the contents on their home, including paintings and a violin, were burned in the yard. All that’s left of of Victorine’s struggles to become an artist is Le jour des rameaux, a painting now located at the museum in Colombes.

Victorine Meurent

After leaving the Musée d’Orsay, Luz Corazzini knew she would have much to write about in her diary. Luz felt that the French Revolution’s motto “liberté, égalité, fraternité” was not intended for women.  Nevertheless, Victorine, despite economic  and social status difficulties, had exhibited various times in the Salon thanks to her desire and determination to become an artist. For Luz, Victorine was a feminist heroine. And to show her appreciation, Luz went to Le Marché Saint Pierre and bought some black velvet ribbon.  She wanted to walk around Paris wearing a choker like that of Olympia in honor of Victorine.

Victorine Meurent

[from THE DIARY OF LUZ CORRAZZINI]

Victorine’s addresses in Paris:

39 rue Folie-Mericourt (with her parents)

191 rue du Faubourg Poissonniere

17 rue Maitre Albert (next to the hotel Notre Dame)

1 Blvd de Clichy 3rd floor (where she lived with courtesan Marie Pellegrin)

69 rue Douvai  (Lautrec’s studio)

21 rue Bréda (with her lover Janine)

6 ave Marie-Therese( but the street’s name has been changed to Tilly ?) (where she lived for 20 years with the piano teacher Marie Dufour)

8 rue Guyot  now rue Médéric  (Manet’s studio)

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Devoured

Today I Pretended To Be A Cupcake

Today I pretended to be a cupcake—pretty,compact and desired.  Then someone grabbed me and swooped me towards their mouth and I no longer felt like pretending.

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