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Jean Cocteau

Retour à l'ordre, Avant-garde, Surrealism

  • Le Mystère de Jean l'Oiseleur, Autoportrait n° 25

Jean Cocteau

(Maisons-Laffitte, 1889 – Milly-la-Forêt, 1963)

Le Mystère de Jean l'Oiseleur, Autoportrait n° 25, 1924

Pen and ink on paper
Inscribed in red pencil at the top right 25
Inscribed in the composition with the underlined words in blue pencil «Thomas l’Imposteur » and « Le Grand Ecart » 
26 x 20 cm

Provenance :
- Galerie Laurent Teillet, Paris
- American private Collection

Le Mystère de Jean L’Oiseleur. Les monologues par Jean Cocteau, Edition Edouard Champion, Paris, 1925 (edition 130 numbered copies + 12 copies); republished in 2 tomes in 2016, Editions des Saints-Pères, Paris, reproduced
- Jean Cocteau. Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Keramik, Tapisserien, Literatur, Theater, Film, Ballett, catalog of the exhibition at the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Ed DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne, 1989, described and reproduced p. 294
Jean Cocteau Archéologue de sa nuit  by Dominique Marny, Passion Collection, Editions Textuel, Paris, 2010, reproduced p.76.


Certificate by Mrs. Annie Guédras, Périgueux, dated  January 6th, 2016


In autumn 1924, after the death of the young writer Raymond Radiguet (1903-1923), Cocteau devastated by grief, decides to flee Paris and retreats in a hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice. Unable to write a single line, he contemplates himself in the mirror of his room, observes, scrutinizes the soul and begins to draw, facing the mirror that returns his image. In several weeks, will be born one of his greatest masterpieces that he titled “Le Mysère de Jean L'Oiseleur”. It is about 31 self-portraits with the feather as carved in the diamond. His face is painful, changing, reflecting so many reflections of his despair. Around these portraits, Cocteau lays down some notes or short monologues ... thoughts that reflect the passing mood of the poet. Words come alive around drawings, like scarves of beauty.
In a letter to Paul Valéry, Cocteau comments: “That's my eye when I catch my lines in the mirror. It shows you what's going on inside ... "
At the end of his stay, Cocteau sent his drawings to his publisher Edouard Champion, to whom he had promised a manuscript. Although the edition of the original edition, completed in January 1925, is intimate, faithfully reproducing each drawing, without embellishments or corrections, the book remains one of the most famous works of the artist.


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