Unique proof for Les Bijoux, variant of Les Bijoux VIII
large-format colour Polaroid print2002
About the work
This unique proof, a variant of Les Bijoux VIII, is part of the series Les Bijoux I-IX – a series of confrontational and sensuous self-portraits that acknowledge the important role which Jeanne Duval, the black mistress of the French Romantic poet Charles Baudelaire, played in his creative and personal life. As described by curator and cultural historian Mark Sealy, ‘The key function of Les Bijoux is to remind the viewer of how critically close African and European cultures have been throughout history, and that the complexities of these encounters cannot be reduced to simplistic understandings of white encounters with ‘the other’. [...] In many respects Baudelaire was dependent on Duval, but history written from a Eurocentric perspective denies the nature of this relationship. Duval is therefore reduced to the margins and literally erased.’
Sulter’s self-portraits, titled after one of Baudelaire’s poems, ‘reframe Duval as an independent and forceful influence on one of France’s greatest poets,’ having ‘financially supported and inspired some of his most important works. Sealy adds, ‘In the guise of Duval, Sulter deliberately emanates an alluring sense of confidence, and within each photograph in the series there is a strong undercurrent of sexual power.’
Les Bijoux was first exhibited in Jeanne Duval: A Melodrama (2003) a loan exhibition curated by Sulter which brought together numerous possible appearances of Duval in nineteenth-century French art. Sulter undertook considerable research on Duval, who appears in several of her writings, including the prose poem Calliope. Sulter had also intended to write a full-length study about Duval.
About the artist
Maud Sulter was born in Glasgow to parents of Scottish and Ghanian descent, and worked as an artist and writer, living between London and Yorkshire. She was active in feminist communities in London in the early 1980s and notably programmed 'Check It', a groundbreaking two-week show at the Drill Hall showcasing black women's creativity. She came to prominence with the 1986 exhibition 'The Thin Black Line' at the ICA, London, curated by Lubaina Himid. In 1990, Sulter was awarded the British Telecom New Contemporaries Award, and the Momart Fellowship at the Tate Gallery Liverpool. She wrote and lectured extensively on art history, focusing on women's art practice from the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth centuries, and addressing the representation of black women. She also published award-winning collections of poetry, as well as a play about Jerry Rawlings, 'Service to Empire' (2002).
Maud Sulter (1960 - 2008)
- Unique proof for Les Bijoux, variant of Les Bijoux VIII
- unique proof
- large-format colour Polaroid print
- height: 80.5 cm; width: 59 cm; depth: 4.7 cm
- Purchased from the estate of the artist, November 2019
- The Estate of Maud Sulter; from whom purchased by UK Government Art Collection, 20 November 2019
- GAC number