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Félix Buhot

Concept for the first frontispiece of the novel L’Ensorcelée by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly


Félix Buhot
Valognes, France, 1847 – Paris 1898


Concept for the first frontispiece of the novel L’Ensorcelée by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly


About 1877


Pastel, charcoal and traces of gouache on ink wash


31.7 x 23.2 cm


Purchase, Claude Dalphond Fund in memory of Gisèle Lachance, inv. 2012.469


Graphic Arts

Besides being a remarkably innovative painter and etcher, Buhot was also a book illustrator and very much attached to his native Normandy and its history. The story of the novel L’Ensorcelée (The Bewitched) is set at the outset of the French Revolution when the pro-Royalist Norman Chouans fought against the new order. Thinking the cause lost, a local priest tries to kill himself, an act that leaves him horribly disfigured. Years later, he reappears as an elder monk and sees the lovely Jeanne Le Hardouey, who embodies for him the rise of modern democracy and capitalism. She is the wife of Thomas Le Hardouey, a member of the newly rich class. It is she who is referred to in the title of the book. “Bewitched” by this black-hooded monk, Jeanne is later found drowned, with the unanswered hovering question: Who is responsible for this disaster?

The drawing includes, apart from the diverse elements of the narrative, a reference to the cathedral in Valognes, visible through the left arch. It is a powerful and aggressively worked sheet, with figures taken from various episodes in the novel, including the dead body of the beautiful Jeanne, which is powerfully and exquisitely rendered in pink, and the skull-like looming figure of the monk.

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