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Des Esseintes

Frontispiece for À Rebours (Against Nature), 1888

Joris-Karl Huysmans, a friend and avid supporter of Redon, commissioned this frontispiece for a special edition of his decadent novel À Rebours, first published in 1884. The book described the solitary existence and singular tastes of the aesthete Des Esseintes. Redon depicts the sickly character slumped in a chair, surrounded by his books and other possessions, which he spends the course of the novel surveying. One of Des Esseintes' pleasures was collecting Redon's noirs:

They contained the most fantastic visions ... Sometimes Redon's subjects actually seemed to be borrowed from the nightmares of science ... creating a new type of fantasy, born of sickness and delirium ... [Des Esseintes turned] to gaze at a radiant figure, which ... stood out calm and serene: the figure of Melancholy, seated ... before a disk-like sun.

P.303-1949

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