Félicien Rops (Namur 1833-1898 Essonnes) L'incantation (proof copy with remarques)

L'incantation (The Spell) is one of the illustrations used for Octave Uzanne's Son Altesse la Femme, edited in 1885 by Maison Quantin, Paris. This highly intricate print after the original watercolour shows an old man in great despair and melancholy, struck by a libertine fever. Desperately in attempt to regain his debauched lifestyle he invocates Black Magic and addresses to the Devil while reading Francesco Maria Guazzo's "Compendium Maleficarum", together with Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger's "Malleus Maleficarum" one of the main documents written on witchcraft and demonology.

Amidst an abundantly stacked alchemist's cabinet he is surrounded by owls, a marabou, love apples, a black cat, preserved hearts of newborn children and virginate parchment for his yet unwritten pact with the Devil. From the witch mirror right in front of him arises a nude woman as the Devil's emissary readily to usurp his soul.....On the back wall a fresco depicting Eve holding the forbidded fruit and a siren, mysogynic symbols Rops adopted after having been introduced to Charles Baudelaire by Gustave Poulet-Malassis in 1864.

 

Born in a wealthy family, Félicien Rops got interested in Art already at young age, sketching and drawing in the blank margins of music scores while his father played Beethoven and Mozart. He abandoned his studies in Law and Philosophy and his artistic career begins with Rops' society-criticising satirical illustrations for "Uylenspiegel, journal des ébats artistiques et littéraires (1853-1863)".

In 1857 he marries Charlotte Polet de Faveaux, who inherits chateau Thozée, where Félicien hosts most of his artistic friends. Through the editor Auguste Poulet-Malassis Rops is introduced to the famous etcher Félix Bracquemond and Charles Baudelaire, the latter who brings a radical change into his career. Together with his friend Armand Rassenfosse Félicien develops the Ropsenfosse technique (a most refined version of the vernis mou technique) .

Rops had a love-hate affair with Paris where he would become one of the best-paid and most famous illustrators (Les Epaves, Les Diaboliques). He boasted to be even better paid than Gustave Doré. Every year he felt the urge to visit the artistic capital for some three months, after which he needed to recover from the sultry climate of the metropole. It is here in Paris, where he meets the sisters Léontine and Aurélie Duluc, who became his maîtresses. The meandering rest to recover from Paris, Rops finds during travels to Swiss, Belgium, Scandinavia, Hungary, Spain, Holland, USA, Africa, Bretagne and Monaco where he recovers from the gloominess. It is here in the countryside, where Rops unwinds and draws his serene pure subjects, which form a welcome contrast to the feverish Parisian crucible.

Finally, Rops found his comfort in the countryside of Corbeil, where he bought the "Demi-Lune", close to the river Seine. He died in 1898 surrounded by Léontine, Aurélie, his daughter Claire and his close friends Rassenfosse and Detouche.

 


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