Details — Click to read
Paper 30 x 20 in. / 76.2 x 50.8 cm
Folded, and presented in an envelope 25 x 25 cm. / 10 x 10 in. Lithograph on Nepal Heavyweight paper with natural fibres. Edition 50: this impression 47/50. Signed by the artist lower center in pencil; numbered 47/50 center left in pencil. Title handwritten by the artist top center.
Monet Portrait of Jeanne Duval is presented in the form of a letter: its envelope carries the title and artist’s name, printed on a pale pink label embellished with white fleurs-de-lis and a delicate gold frame. The “letter” folded up within has been printed to look distressed and burned. At the top of the sheet, the title is handwritten. Below, a poem in typewriter typeface reads:
“in a cab across 23 street You’re wearing your lips / Squeezed into the little moue I call your whore lips / And a white ‘I Love New York’ sweatshirt new but dirty / You got who knows where. Remember I told you the story / You made me think of Jeanne Duval, the whore Baudelaire / Adored. Down the East River Drive . I told you the story, / Remember? I described Monet’s portrait of Jeanne Duval
It must’ve been a dress Monet Loved / He used it over and over. It was the year of the major / Crinoline, how we picture Scarlett Ohara. The enormous skirt / And high tiny waist – (rather, ‘a high and tiny waist’) / Set off by a Little Bolero. The sleeves are long and tight / the neck high and edged with (like the sleeves) narrow / Lace. It is the whitest dress ever painted Orgady [sic] or / Dotted swiss, the white set off by on edges and flounces / By black. She’s half-draped across a small canape, white / Silk ankles crossed and tiny low, black slippers, the whole / Surmounted by a shrunken head and black Banana-curl wig / June 26 / 1989 / R. R.”
The poem probably refers to Manet’s 1862 portrait of Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s Haitian-born muse, who was known as the “Black Venus.” In the painting, a woman with a fan reclines on a couch, one foot emerging from the diaphanous cloud of her skirt. Ricard’s poem is ambiguous, halfway between love letter and lament. This print was published in Ricard’s 1990 book of poetry Trusty Sarcophagus along with the printed poem.
The artist came up with the idea for this print after he had been carrying a folded piece of paper with a poem tucked underfoot in his shoe. With its purposeful scuffing and “burn” marks, Monet Portrait of Jeanne Duval is designed to look like a well-worn letter, giving the impression of a precious document that has been read over and over again. The addition of hand-written cursive reflects the emotions expressed in Ricard’s poems. He adjuncts this expression with a personalization: “To T” in the lower left refers to Tony, his lover at the time.