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Félicien Rops

(1833 Namur – 1898 Essones near Nantes)

La Dame au Carcel. Vernis mou and drypoint. 23.9 x 17.5 cm. (1876). Signed “F.R.” in red chalk. Exteens 352, Rouir 850 I (of IV).

The Belgian printmaker and illustrator, Félicien Rops, was a co-founder in 1868 of the Société des Beaux Arts in Brussels and one of the pioneers of Belgian realism. He excelled as a pupil with his caricatures and in 1856 joined Charles de Coster in launching the journal Uylenspiegel, which rapidly made him well known thanks to his illustrations. In Paris, Rops immersed himself in the art of etching and together with his friend Armand Rassenfosse later devised a special form of soft-ground etching (vernis mou) which he called “ropsenfosse”.

This suggestive, visually explicit depiction of an all but naked cocotte, whose ample proportions are illuminated by the light of an oil lamp, is remarkable for its very striking chiaroscuro effect and soft, velvety transitions. The scene emanates a decadence and malicious eroticism that are characteristic of Rops. The gaze of the woman, who is wearing nothing but gloves, is little short of threatening; she appears as the epitome of seduction and as a man-killer, thus embodying the double standards of the Fin de siècle.

A very fine, contrasting and inky early impression with wide margins, before the diagonal hatching added in the upper part of the image. Minor staining and slightly wavy, other minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition. Rare.

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