BEARDSLEY (AUBREY) Beardsley's illustrated copy of Stéphane Mallarmé's <I>L'après midi d'une faune</I>, with the autograph decorations by Beardsley [c.1893]
Lot 27
Sold for £ 16,250 (US$ 21,786) inc. premium

Lot Details
BEARDSLEY (AUBREY) Beardsley's illustrated copy of Stéphane Mallarmé's <I>L'après midi d'une faune</I>, with the autograph decorations by Beardsley [c.1893] BEARDSLEY (AUBREY) Beardsley's illustrated copy of Stéphane Mallarmé's <I>L'après midi d'une faune</I>, with the autograph decorations by Beardsley [c.1893] BEARDSLEY (AUBREY) Beardsley's illustrated copy of Stéphane Mallarmé's <I>L'après midi d'une faune</I>, with the autograph decorations by Beardsley [c.1893]
Beardsley's illustrated copy of Stéphane Mallarmé's L'après midi d'une faune, the printed booklet comprising part of the Édition definitive of 1882 later bound into vellum wrappers with the following autograph decorations by Beardsley: (i) brown front original over (now the front endpaper): Whistleresque butterfly and three neumes in black ink; (ii) first page of the poem: faun's head and naked breast, hairs from the latter trailing into the initials "AVB", with the edge of a jagged cloud and blue sky in watercolour behind him; (iii) opening covering the second and third pages of text (numbered 6 & 7): whispy forms and floating tendrils in black ink; (iv) fourth and fifth pages of text (numbered 8 & 9): lily-pad, tendrils and neumes in black ink; (v) seventh page of text (numbered 11): branch with flowers in black ink, above the inscription in lower-case capitals "Aubrey Beardsley" with an additional tendril ending in the initials 'AVB', in black ink; together with a loosely inserted unrelated signed Beardsley inscription dated Xmas 1895, 7 pages of drawings in all, bound into vellum wrappers (possibly by Smithers), some light spotting and minor wear to outer leaves, but overall in fine and attractive condition, 8vo, [?early 1893]


  • THE TWENTY-YEAR-OLD BEARDSLEY'S ILLUSTRATED COPY OF L'APRÈS MIDI D'UNE FAUNE – AN EXEPTIONLLY FINE WORK OF HIS EARLY MATURITY, LATER OWNED BY LEONARD SMITHERS, the principal drawing of the faun reproduced by him in A Second Book of Fifty Drawings (1899), and included in Aymer Vallance's 'List of Drawings' appended to Robert Ross's Aubrey Beardsley (1909), p. 73: '52. L'APRES-MIDI D'UN FAUNE, par Mallarme; four designs extra-illustrating a copy of. One of them, a pen-and-ink vignette of a faun, full face, signed with monogram A.V.B., was published in "Second Book." The others unpublished. 1893'. A loosely inserted typed note signed by Eric Maclaren, dated 31 May 1939, sets out the remaining provenance:"I bought Beardsley's copy of L'Après midi d'une Faune from Smithers in 1900 while I was at Oxford" and noting its appearance in A Second Book, where it is dated 1892.

    As regards the date, we have followed that given by Aymer Vallance in his catalogue of 1909. Vallance, a former high-Anglican priest was an art journalist on the look-out for new talent, and had visited Beardsley in January 1892 and over the next few months did more than anyone to promote the young man's career. This was the period that saw Beardsley out-grow his Burne-Jones manner and develop the style for which he is remembered: 'By the spring of 1892 he had begun to draw in the linear style which would make him famous, though nothing was published at this stage. He would sketch a design in pencil and then work over it in black ink, producing images of the strongest contrast: black, white, and no greys. He seems to have grasped the potential of the new process blocks, which were replacing wood-engravings at this time as a medium for reproducing images alongside letterpress... The thin, isolated black lines which sweep so voluptuously across the white in some of Beardsley's most famous drawings are a tribute to the process block, which no other illustrator of the 1890s exploited quite so tellingly... In the autumn the publisher J. M. Dent asked Beardsley to illustrate Malory's Morte d'Arthur in the style of the books beginning to come from William Morris's Kelmscott Press... At about the same time, through Vallance, Beardsley's work was chosen as the subject of an article in the first number of The Studio, a new periodical of fine and decorative art... In February 1893 Oscar Wilde's play Salome was published in London, and the Pall Mall Budget asked Beardsley for a drawing. He wove an ornate, macabre, and, in places, sickening graphic fantasy around the horrific climax of the play, Salome embracing the severed head of John the Baptist. The Budget rejected it, but in April it appeared in the first number of The Studio. Wilde liked the drawing, and his publishers suggested that Beardsley do an illustrated edition of the play. He was not yet twenty-one, but he had reached the shores of notoriety' (Alan Crawford, ODNB).

    Leonard Smithers did even more for Beardsley at the end of his short career than had Vallance at its beginning: it was he who established The Savoy magazine to provide him with work after The Yellow Book had fallen victim to the hysteria following Wilde's disgrace, and who published late masterpieces such as his illustrations to The Rape of the Lock, The Lysistrata and Volpone; and it was to Smithers that the dying Beardsley wrote the famous letter begging him – unsuccessfully of course – 'to destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings ... By all that is holy, all obscene drawings'.

    There is no evidence that Beardsley ever met Mallarmé, although the French poet clearly admired the younger artist, Beardsley writing to Henry Davray shortly before his death: 'I was charmed to receive such kind messages from M. Mallarmé. If you think he would care for it I would send him a large-paper copy of my album. You might let me known. I do not know his address' (Letters of Aubrey Beardsley, edited by Maas, Duncan and Wood, 1970, p. 348).

Saleroom notices

  • Provenance: Sir Eric Maclagan, K.C.V.O, C.B.E, art collector and Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1924 until 1945 (the loosely inserted typed note signed by him); Michael Maclagan, Sir Eric's son, the additional loose note signed by Beardsley with a pencilled inscription signed "MM"; and thence by descent.
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  1. Simon Roberts
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