Original Indian ink drawing, numbered in red pencil, with autograph MANUSCRIT. 25 x 19.4 cm on view (framed).
In the margin of his self-portrait, Cocteau wrote this comment: "How could the beauty of art not look sad in front of the insolent, poignant beauty of fashionable notices and music hall dances? For these must give all their force at once and give way, while art must spread its own gradually, over a space of many centuries."
The project of the Mystery of John the Baptist was born in October 1924 in Villefranche-sur-mer. In his room at the Hôtel Welcome, Cocteau "has no one to talk to but himself. From the table in front of which he sits, he sees himself in the mirror of his wardrobe [...] The 31 self-portraits to which he adds a few sentences or snippets of text are among his treasures. The 31 self-portraits to which he adds a few sentences or snippets of text are among his treasures. The surety and simplicity of the line, the acuity of the detail, the relevance and sincerity of the subject [...] By mixing writing and drawing, which is "a writing unraveled and rewoven in a different way", Cocteau offers the publisher Édouard Champion one of his most beautiful poetic works: Le Mystère de Jean l'Oiseleur. [...] The title intrigues. A bird-catcher catches birds with a net. Does Cocteau capture the thoughts that come to his mind to squeeze them into a page? (Dominique Marny).
These 31 self-portraits by Jean Cocteau are "plunging views into his soul" (Pierre Bergé). Le Mystère de Jean l'Oiseleur will be published in 1925 by Édouard Champion in the form of a phototype of the manuscript made by Daniel Jacomet and printed in 142 copies.
Reproduced in the Album Cocteau (Pléiade, p. 159); Dominique Marny, Jean Cocteau, archéologue de sa nuit (Textuel, 2010, pp. 72-77).
EXHIBITIONS Jean Cocteau, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, 1989, no. 232; Jean Cocteau, Musée d'Ixelles, Brussels, 1991; Jean Cocteau, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2003-2004; Jean Cocteau, sur les pas d'un magicien, Palais Lumière, Évian, 2010.
PROVENANCE Collection Liliane et Étienne de Saint-Georges, Brussels; Sotheby's Paris sale, 24 November 2010, no. 197