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Created to illustrate Son Altesse la femme by Octave Uzanne, La Dame au Pantin (Woman with a puppet) is a graphic example of the themes that characterize the work of Félicien Rops (1833-1898). In tune with end of the 19th century anxieties, the artist set out to illustrate female domination through extremely striking images. This dislocated puppet, devoid of any resistance in the woman’s hands, is one of the best examples. The drawing marks a turning point in Rops’s work because it is scattered with symbolic and mythological motifs, thus placing it in the symbolist sphere of influence.
Watercolours and coloured pencil on paper
38,5 x 26,5 cms
Heritage Fund Acquisition
Musée Félicien Rops, Namur
La dame au pantin
Instead of the prostitute or “lightskirt” he had realistically depicted before, Rops drew inspiration from fin-de-siècle literature, in which many authors described the hold of a woman over a man until he became no more than a pathetic puppet in her claws. The femme fatale of the 19th century draws man towards an inevitable fall. “Les Dames au Pantin” was a response to the wish expressed by the writer, Octave Uzanne (1851-1931), who wanted to revolutionize book publishing in the 1880s. Although fairly unknown to the general public today, the author was at the peak of his glory during this time and made Rops his artistic alter ego. They shared the same desire of creating a book that was no longer just an object, but a total “objet d’art” in which the text, the illustration, the typography, the choice of paper, and the binding were carefully considered as a whole and designed as a complete work of art. The puppet is clearly the allegory of a manipulated man, dressed as a court jester. The fan, symbolizing superficiality and feminine frivolity, completes the picture. She is holding out a puppet that leaves no room for doubt: this is the bourgeois man of the 19th century, attired in a black suit, with a top hat and a monocle… Pieces of gold are falling from his belly into a bowl around which the serpent of temptation is coiled. The woman, dominating and interested, watches, amused, the sacrifice of this puppet… “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the man”), says the bas-relief on the altar.
The Digital Collection
Almost 139 years after the creation of the third “Lady with a Puppet”, this masterpiece by the symbolist artist is being made available as an exclusive digital collection. 33 unique digital copies will be available for purchase thanks to blockchain technology, making it possible to certify the number of digital works put on the market in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Each digital work will be sold for 500 euros and gives access to a series of other benefits beyond the pleasure of collecting this piece.
- Access to high-definition digital artwork (2093x2999px, for private use).
- A high definition subjective view of the artwork to discover it from a different angle (private use) which we called ‘video traveling’.
- Invitation to the Thozée Castle before the summer 2023 for a private talk with Véronique Carpiaux (Curator of the Rops Museum) and Professor Denis Laoureux.
- Exclusive, 20-minute video (in French with EN subtitles) with Véronique Carpiaux (Curator of the Rops Museum) and Laura Debry (Lecturer at the National Superior School of Visual Arts of La Cambre).
- Logion Certificate of the Digital Artwork.
- 80% of the revenues from this collection will be dedicated to funding a portion of the museum’s extension, allowing the ROPS Museum to exhibit more artworks of the Artist as well as offering new spaces to the public.
About the artist
Félicien Rops was born in 1833 and died in 1898. He lived through the 19th century, a period of upheaval marked by industrial progress, changing customs, and the Modernity that gave rise to Symbolism in art.
Félicien Rops was born in 1833 and died in 1898. He lived through the 19th century, a period of upheaval marked by industrial progress, changing customs, and the Modernity that gave rise to Symbolism in art. “I spend my time containing myself and I have a furious desire to smash this straitjacket of conventions which civilized societies use to restrain primitive natures. […] To go far away from the world ‘comme il faut’ and finally live my life in excitement and movement.“ At the age of 18, the young artist thirsty for freedom left Namur for Brussels. He founded a journal, L’Uylenspiegel, journal des ébats artistiques et littéraires (1856-1863), in which he produced ironic, cynical caricatures of the social classes, the artists of his time, and political events. In 1864, Félicien Rops met Charles Baudelaire for whom, in 1866, he produced the frontispiece for Les Épaves, the compilation of censured poems from Les Fleurs du Mal, drawing inspiration from the poet’s world. In 1874, he settled in Paris. There, he was sought after as an illustrator by the leading writers of his generation: Barbey d’Aurevilly, Mallarmé, Péladan, Verlaine, and others. His abundant correspondence (approximately 4,000 recorded letters) is an endless source of information about his questionings, his doubts, and his vital forces, but also about artistic life in the 19th century. A great traveler (Hungary, Scandinavia, United States, North Africa, Spain, etc.), an inveterate engraver and drawer, a painter when he felt like it, and a keen sportsman, Félicien Rops developed many talents and approaches in his time.