"MA FACE PERDUE TA FACE ÉPERDUE / ENSEMBLE FONDU INTIMES CONFONDUES…": EXQUISITE SIGNED LIMITED FIRST EDITION OF CORPS PERDU, 1950, WITH 32 STUNNING ILLUSTRATIONS BY PICASSO INCLUDING HIS "POETA LAUREATUS OF NEGRITUDE," ONE OF ONLY 219 COPIES SIGNED BY POET AIME CESAIRE AND ARTIST PABLO PICASSO
PICASSO, Pablo and CESAIRE, Aime. Corps Perdu. Paris: Editions Fragrance, (1950). Folio (11-3/4 by 15-3/4 inches), original half vellum-gilt portfolio, loose signatures uncut, original slipcase. $24,000.
Striking first edition of this powerful celebration of black pride, number 42 of only 177 copies (out of a total edition of 219 copies) on Velin de Montval and signed by poet Aime Cesaire and artist Pablo Picasso, featuring poetry by Cesaire and 32 beautiful illustrations by Picasso (one etching, one etching and rupoint, 10 aquatints, and 20 engravings with burin).
"In 1941, Andre Breton went to the West Indies accompanied by the Cuban painter, Wifredo Lam. In Fort-de-France, while looking through an issue of a Martinique magazine, Tropiques, they discovered the black poet Aime Cesaire, who was to become one of the great poets of negritude" (Goeppert, et al. 56). Negritude was a black pride movement that strived to elevate the black community by drawing on the power and excitement of its great moments—from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement to "Black Is Beautiful." "It may well have been Breton who suggested to Picasso that [Cesaire] illustrate Corps perdu. The fact remains that Picasso knew Wifredo Lam well, and had been interested in his work since 1938. He even organized a joint show with him at Galerie Pierre in 1939. In 1945, this same gallery put on another Lam exhibition. The following year, the magazine Cahiers d'Art reproduced some 10 recent works by Lam accompanied by two essays, one by Breton, and the other by Cesaire. If we look closely at Picasso's burin engravings for Corps perdu, we discover clear allusions to Wifredo Lam's magic Surrealism, particularly in the ambiguous figures, at once human, animal and vegetable, and also in the head shaped like a crescent moon… This crescent crops up frequently in Lam's work… As for Cesaire and Lam, they had in common the evocation of their native countries and the exaltation of the tropics. To these traits must be added—in Cesaire's case—the expressive enthusiasm of the throbbing heart and the quest for black selfhood. The search for identity is also the theme of this collection of poetry as its epigraph indicates: 'Negre negre negre / depuis le fond du ciel immemorial…' The word negre is printed on the foreheads of all Negroes, just as it is on the front of the dark mask which surrounds the title of the first poem" (Goeppert, et al. 56). Picasso, however, also knew Cesaire personally. Picasso and Cesaire met at the World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in 1948. They discovered a shared interest in politics, art, and some of the ideas underlying surrealism—namely, the idea of a powerful unconscious mind. Picasso's illustrations in Corps Perdu strive to find the intersection of the African diaspora and Picasso's own art.
"There are ten poems in all in Corps perdu; the fifth one has lent its name to the anthology… The engravings, which were done in March, 1949, depict plants, insects, pictographic images of copulating couples, and faces in the form of leaves, animals or crescent moons. An aquatint done by Picasso in June, 1949, surrounds the title of each poem. Finally, the artist added—as frontispiece—a superb etching and drypoint of a black man's head in profile: this is the poeta laureatus of negritude" (Goeppert, et al. 56). The frontispiece "Crowned Poet," a reference to Cesaire, was used for the poster for the first Congress of Black Writers and Artists, organized by the seminal literary journal, Presence Africaine at the Sorbonne in 1956. Artist and the Book 233. Goeppert, et al., Pablo Picasso the Illustrated Books: Catalogue Raisonne 56.
Interior exceptionally fine, portfolio with only a couple tiny spots to spine, slipcase with only slightest toning to extremities. A beautiful signed copy.