The Lady with the Monkey, in Six Drawings Illustrating Théophile Gautier’s Romance Mademoiselle de Maupin
Among American writers, Edgar Allan Poe was the one with the most profound influence on Beardsley. No single French author had equal impact; Beardsley was a devotee of French literature in general. He enjoyed an excellent command of the language and always read works in the original French. His last year of life was spent in France, where one of his final projects was to illustrate Mademoiselle de Maupin by Théophile Gautier (1811–1872). The novel held obvious appeal with plot elements of cross-dressing and same-sex desire, which always ignited his imagination, as did the opportunity to depict taboo body parts. Curiously, this illustration for Leonard Smithers’s posthumously released edition showed not only a bare-breasted woman, but an elaborately attired monkey with long, flat feet much like those in E. T. Reed’s 5 February 1895 Punch caricature of Beardsley. Was this little figure with its wizened face a comic self-portrait?
From the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press