Monday, November 12, 2007

Mariette Lydis and Suzanne Ballivet

Mariette Lydis, Nude - hand-coloured drypoint, 1949

Several websites make the claim that the Buenos Aires-based artist Mariette Lydis also worked under the pseudonym Suzanne Ballivet, both for clandestine erotica and for risqué trade publications. Because Ballivet's Initiation Amoureuse claims to have been printed in Buenos Aires in 1943, and because although Ballivet’s work is cruder and more hurried, there are definite stylistic affinities between the two women, for some time I thought that this identification was quite likely. After all, it's hardly likely that there could have been two different French women artists obsessed with lesbianism and erotic transgression living and working in Buenos Aires at the same time. And the pseudonym would have given Lydis the opportunity to have a second crack at commercially-attractive texts by writers such as Baudelaire and Louys.

However, it turns out that Lydis and Ballivet are, in fact, two completely different women. Suzanne Ballivet was an artist in her own right, who studied at the Beaux Arts de Montepellier in the 1920s, where she met the illustrator Albert Dubout, whom she was to marry in 1968. Initiation Amoureuse was actually published in Paris by Georges Guillot around 1950; the Buenos Aires claim is just a piece of flim-flam of the kind beloved of clandestine publishers.

Mariette Lydis, Nude torso - hand-coloured drypoint, 1949

Both Lydis and Ballivet worked with Georges Guillot around the same time, which is another possible source of the confusion between the two. I have an edition of Verlaine's Parallèlement published by Guillot in 1949, illustrated with original drypoints by Mariette Lydis. There were 520 copies, of which 190 had the drypoints (plus 5 planches refusées) delicately hand-coloured by the publisher's wife, Nadine Guillot. My copy also has one of 90 additional suites of the drypoints in black.


Anonymous said...

I have 10 limited-edition, signed (dated 1934) facsimiles (257 out of 1000) of Mariette Lydis erotic illustrations. The prints are (in my uninformed
opinion) in very good condition and measure 6.75 wide x 8.75 high. The text on the case which contains the prints reads:

"Ces dix dessins refusés pour l'edition des romans et nouvelles de Pierre Louys, reproduits en fac-similé par Daniel Jacomet pour l'union Latine d'editions, ont été tirés a 1000 exemplaires numérotés et paraphés par Mariette Lydis."

Exemplaire N 257

I'm wondering whether to frame them or to sell them. They are quite beautiful. Inherited them from my French grandfather.

Neil said...

L'Union Latine published a 7-volume edition of Louys illustrated by Lydis in 1934, containing 22 colour plates "reproduits en fac-similé par Daniel Jacomet". I'm not completely clear what this means. I associate Jacomet with the hand-stencilled pochoir colour process, but I believe he was also a conventional colour printer. Luc Monod, the authority on French illustrated books, doesn't mention the existence of the "dessins refusés", but many lightly erotic publications of this period issued sets of slightly naughtier "refused plates". I don't think your set is worth a great deal - maybe £100 to the right buyer, who has the set of books and would like the dessins refusés too. My feeling is if you like them it makes more sense to frame them and enjoy them. Apparently some copies had 7 etchings by Lydis, too, printed in sepia.

Benoît said...

+1, the answer by Neil is completely right. Enjoy those fine etchings, instead of loosing them at 25 Euros with Ebay. If you really want to sell them, use (with translation in french, we are not gifted for foreign languages !, not