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Lot n° 15


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Mortuary mask of the poet and writer Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) In plaster, resting on a natural wood panel with an easel foot on the reverse. Time wear, a few accidents, as is. Mask : H. : 27 cm - L. : 17 cm. Base: H.: 36 cm - W.: 24.5 cm. History: this striking and instantaneous image of the poet a few hours after his death, testifies to the 19th century's pronounced taste for life casts as a simple archive document, but also as a work of art. Indeed, the reuse of these casts for more accomplished projects was a common practice in the 19th century. Reference: in the book Les Derniers Jours de Paul Verlaine by Frédéric-Auguste Cazals and Gustave Le Rouge, published in 1911 by Mercure de France, we learn that the poet's death mask was cast by Méoli and executed in 50 copies, numbered and offered to the poet's friends. The initial proof was deposited in the Carnavalet Museum, while the mould that had been used was destroyed and no mask was marketed. The recipients of this precious souvenir included Émile Combe, Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts, Georges Verlaine - his son -, Stéphane Mallarmé, Jean Moréas, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Maurice Barrès, Raymond Poincaré, Auguste Rodin and Armand Lods. The latter was the husband of the novelist Vega (Marguerite Alice de Wegmann). He donated the proof of his casting to Pierre Curillon (1866-1954), whom he had asked to make a bust of Paul Verlaine. Indeed, Armand Lods acknowledges in a handwritten document, dated 11 February 1950, that he gave the sculptor this death mask. In all likelihood, it is this mask. Acquired at Sotheby's, by the present owner, on November 7, 2007, it was originally accompanied by a letter signed Pierre Curillon, dated February 11, 1950, which unfortunately has disappeared, on which was written: "I acknowledge that I have given to Mr. [...] the proof of the original moulding executed on the face of Paul Verlaine on his deathbed. This proof was given to me by Armand Lods, friend of the poet, who had asked me to make a bust [...]".

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