Charles Meryon, The Morgue, etching

La Morgue

Delteil 36, Wright 36, Schneiderman 42

etching with drypoint, 1854*, on medium-fine cream-yellow laid paper, with part of a watermark in Roman capitals (COMP), the 4th state (of 7), before the addition of title and date, and before Delâtre's address, a very fine impression, with good margins, very faint traces of discolouration in the margins from an old mount, some slight and quite localized skinning on the reverse, otherwise in excellent condition

P. 230x206mm., S. 318x293mm.

Provenance: the A. F. Lotz-Brissonneau collection, with the ALB wetstamp in blue on the reverse (Lugt 83)

Meryon's mastery here finds its full expression, the ominous billows of smoke set off against the stark façades backing the riverfront, where a tiny tragedy unfolds: as a body is carried up, a woman with her daughter recoils in horror and gendarmes take action before an entire gallery of onlookers.

It should also be recalled that this subjet haunted Meryon, who related to Baudelaire (letter of de 8 January 1860, cited by Delteil), regarding Edgar Poe, that The Rue Morgue "contains allusions to my own misfortunes."

With the first inscriptions added below, the 4th state** is for all practical purposes the definitive state, and the present impression is quite cleanly wiped (one of the poor artist's later obsessions), showing rather fine detail.

* The 5th state comprises a title and the date of 1850 replacing the prior inscriptions, although according to Wright this is most likely the date of the original drawing, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. It should be added that the 4th state impression in the Bibliothèque Nationale (Ef 397) bearing the wetstamp of the "Dépôt légal" is also dated 1854.

** Although it predates the Delâtre address, this state is curiously the most commonly inventoried by Delteil and Schneiderman, some 50 impressions in all for the latter: judging by their variety (and knowing something of Meryon's working methods), they were not all pulled at a single time nor in a uniform fashion, in spite of the so-called 1852-1854 edition published by Meryon himself for the suite Eaux-fortes de Paris.