Galerie des Modernes

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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 upper right 20
Annoted in the composition
26 x 20 cm                                       

Exhibition :
Culture Chanel, La Donna che Legge, Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Ca’ Pesaro - Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, Venice, from the 17th of September 2016 to the 8th of January 2017, reproduced in the exhibition booklet, p. 102, nr 86

Literature :
- Le Mystère de Jean L’Oiseleur. Les monologues by Jean Cocteau, edition Edouard Champion, Paris, 1925 (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, reproduced p. 291
- Jean Cocteau Archéologue de sa nuit by Dominique Marny, Collection Passion, editions Textuel, Paris, 2010, reproduced p. 75 and on the cover of the book


Certificate of authenticity by Annie Guédras, dated Périgueux the 6th of January 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 Mystère 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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