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Paper Vault: Dancing with Death

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La rue de la Vieille Lanterne

19th century
51.1 x 34.8 cm (20 1/8 x 13 11/16 in.)

Gustave (Paul Gustave Louis Christophe) Doré (Strasbourg, 1832 - 1883, Paris) Primary

Object Type: print
Artist Nationality: Europe, French
Medium and Support: Lithograph
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Karen G. and Dr. Elgin W. Ware, Jr. Collection, 1996
Accession Number: 1996.287

Doré revived the Romantic language in printmaking to commemorate the death of the great Romantic poet, Gérard de Nerval. Lithography became the favored printmaking technique of the Romantics because the tonal variations and quickness in line allowed expression of the artist’s personality. Doré, in his operatic fashion, interprets the poet Nerval’s suicide which took place in the Rue de la Vieille Lanterne. In the image, Death pulls the soul from Nerval’s dead body toward Heaven, announcing the entry by blowing a horn.

Gérard de Nerval was a French Romantic poet whose use of dreams and fantasies exhibit the interrelation of the real and supernatural worlds. The loss of his mother at a young age and the death of his true love, Jenny Colon, were two events that upset his already unstable mental health. During his most creative period in the early-1850s, Nerval was institutionalized at least eight times for severe mental disorders. The work he produced, such as Aurélia (1853-54) and Les Chimères (1854), are at once lyrical and complex. His tortured existence ended when he hung himself from a lamppost in the rue de la Vieille Lanterne in Paris.

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