Jeanne Duval

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Jeanne Duval
Baudelaire - Jeanne Duval.jpg
Jeanne Duval as drawn by Charles Baudelaire.
Possibly Jeanne Duval,
Jeanne Prosper,
or Jeanne Lemer

c. 1820
Residence6 rue de la Femme-sans-tête
Paris, France
Partner(s)Charles Baudelaire

Jeanne Duval (French pronunciation: ​[ʒan dyˈval]) (c. 1820 – c. 1862) was a Haitian-born actress and dancer of mixed French and black African ancestry. For 20 years, she was the muse of French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire, they met in 1842, when Duval left Haiti for France, and the two remained together, albeit stormily, for the next two decades. Duval is said to have been the woman whom Baudelaire loved most, in his life,[1] after his mother, she was born in Haiti on an unknown date, sometime around 1820.

Poems of Baudelaire's which are dedicated to Duval or pay her homage include: "Le balcon" (The Balcony), "Parfum exotique" (Exotic Perfume), "La chevelure" (The Hair), "Sed non satiata" (Yet she is not satisfied), "Le serpent qui danse" (The Dancing Serpent), and "Une charogne" (A Carcass).[2]

Baudelaire called her "mistress of mistresses" and his "Vénus Noire" ("Black Venus"), and it is believed that, to him, Duval symbolized the dangerous beauty, sexuality, and mystery of a Creole woman in mid-nineteenth century France,[3] she lived at 6, rue de la Femme-sans-tête (Street of the Headless Woman), near the Hôtel Pimodan.[4]

Duval as Baudelaire's Mistress, Reclining by Édouard Manet.

Édouard Manet, a friend of Baudelaire, painted Duval in his 1862 painting Baudelaire's Mistress, Reclining.[5] She was, by this time, going blind.[6]

Duval may have died of syphilis as early as 1862, five years prior to Baudelaire, who also died of syphilis.[7] Other sources also claim that Duval survived Baudelaire.[8] Nadar claimed to have seen Duval, last, in 1870—by this time she was on crutches, suffering heavily from syphilis.[9]

Popular culture[edit]

Jeanne Duval serves as a main character in Caribbean author Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads, a work of historic fiction,[10] and also in the title story of the collection Black Venus by Angela Carter;[11] the film My Heart Laid Bare, by Disruptive Element Films, is about the life of Jeanne Duval.[12]

The noted American conceptual artist Lorraine O'Grady has developed a 16-diptych photo-installation featuring paired images of Charles Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval called Flowers of Evil and Good. Preliminary studies for this installation have already been exhibited in such spaces as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the Thomas Erben Gallery, New York, and Galerie Fotohof, Salzburg, Austria.[13] O'Grady has also written extensively about the relationship of Charles and Jeanne in such publications as Mousse Magazine[14] and Pétunia: magazine féministe d’art contemporain et de loisirs.[15]

Scottish artist Maud Sulter created several artworks inspired by Duval, using images such as her photograph by Nadar, and self-portraits of the artist. Many of these were displayed in a solo show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery called Jeanne Duval: A Melodrama.[16]

In addition, Jeanne Duval is the inspiration for a song called "Street of Roses" by then-Soviet heavy metal band Aria, on their 1987 album Hero of Asphalt.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-07-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Lloyd, Rosemary (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521537827.
  3. ^ "Black Venus - Angela Carter". Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2007-04-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Therese Dolan (1997). "Skirting the issue: Manet's portrait of 'Baudelaire's Mistress, Reclining'". Art Bulletin. 79 (4): 611–629. doi:10.1080/00043079.1997.10786803 (inactive 2019-07-20).
  6. ^ "Charles Pierre Baudelaire Biography", Encyclopedia of World Biography.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-02. Retrieved 2007-07-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Abigail Bray, "Infective Writing: Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil and Angela Carter's 'Black Venus'", in Anne Brewster, Marion Campbell, Ann McGuire, Kathryn Trees (eds), Yorga Wangi: Postcolonialism and Feminism. Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, Number 37, 1993.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2014-08-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Science Fiction Book Reviews Archived September 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Jan Dalley (30 July 1995). "A saint more beastly than beautiful. Burning Your Boats: Collected Short Stories by Angela Carter". The Independent. London. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  12. ^ disruptive element films | filmography Archived October 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-20. Retrieved 2013-08-14.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Cecilia Alemani, "Living Symbols of New Epochs" Archived 2013-08-18 at the Wayback Machine (interview with Lorraine O'Grady), Mousse, Issue #24.
  15. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-08-14.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Black venus". Retrieved 2018-06-20.

External links[edit]