The Execution of the Testament of the Marquis de Sade by Jean Benoît

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Hommage au Marquis de Sade (1959) by Jean Benoît.

BENOÎT Jean (Quebec, 1922). In Paris, 1949, he undertook a strange enterprise called The Execution of the Testament of the Marquis de Sade which kept him busy for two years. It is a very complicated costume, made up of superimposed coverings and accompanied by important accessories. Each element of the ensemble (medallion, tights, crutches, panels, mask, boots, wings, tomb, push-chair, membrum virile, codpiece, chastity-belt, with tattooing thrown in) transposes some aspect of Sadian thought into plastic terms. The work was to be worn during a special ceremony which took place December 2, 1959, at Joyce Mansour’s, the evening preceding the International Exhibition of Surrealism (“Eros”) in Galerie Daniel Cordier. In 1965 Benoît completed another work for carrying round as a tribute to Sergeant Bertrand, a famous nineteenth-century necrophile, The Necrophile, and a sculpture, The Bulldog of Maldoror, which he presented at the international surrealist exhibition “L’Ecart absolu”, Galerie L’Oeil, in the same year, 1965.

José Pierre, A Dictionary of Surrealism, 1975

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But it is the Execution of the Last Testament of the Marquis de Sade, finally staged in 1959, that lies at the heart of Benoît’s oeuvre. Often cited but rarely analysed, it is one of the most significant works of post-war surrealism. On December 2, at the home of the surrealist poet Joyce Mansour, attended by around a hundred invited guests. the event began with the crescendo of a volcano—a sound recording of street noises made by Radovan Ivsic—followed by a second recording of Breton reading out the Marquis’ last testament, specifying de Sade’s (never heeded) desire for his body to be treated and laid to rest in an anonymous grave. Benoît’s detailed notes specifying every element of his complex and extensive dress and accoutrements were read out loud as [Mimi] Parent helped Benoît, arrayed in this extraordinary costume, slowly remove each item one by one. Layered suits, masks, crutches, panels, ornaments, and accessories made from diverse materials laden with symbolic images and signs evoked intense masked tribal ceremonies and rituals; no photographs of the event were permitted, but Benoît staged its elements for a haunting series of images by Gilles Ehrmann taken in an abandoned building. At the culmination of the ceremony, Benoît revealed himself naked save for a wooden phallus incorporating an hourglass, his body entirely painted and with arrows pointing to the spot over his heart at which he then proceeded to brand himself with the word “SADE.” This performance represented an intense and irrevocable stripping bare of the self in order to restore lost powers, to release de Sade from his incarceration, to seal a community, and to cut through the poverty of contemporary existence in the most dramatic but unrepeatable terms; it is consistent with this sense of a unique and all-powerful gesture that Benoît would not seek to reprise such an event again.

Krzysztof Fijalkowski, The International Encyclopedia of Surrealism, 2019

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All photographs are by Gilles Ehrmann.

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Continue reading “The Execution of the Testament of the Marquis de Sade by Jean Benoît”

Weekend links 28

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The Expansion of the First Great Ornamental Age: 3 Distances (2009) by Seher Shah.

Great Female Artists? Think Karachi. “One reason for the unusually high ratio of female artists in Pakistan has to do with the fact that the art industry has not traditionally been viewed as a lucrative business by men, says South Asian art historian Savita Apte, who administers the internationally renowned Abraaj Capital Art Prize. Until very recently, creatively inclined males tended to focus on fields such as advertising or illustration, leaving the art field wide open for some very talented women.” Related: artist Seher Shah (and also here).

• Hardformat looks at the luxury/collectors/whatever edition of the forthcoming Brian Eno album. “What’s the music like?” Colin asks. Indeed.

Strange Flowers is “a celebration of the most extraordinary, eccentric and unfairly forgotten figures of the past 200 years”.

Warsaw Warble: Illustration and design in Poland, 1917 to 1938. More marvels from A Journey Round My Skull.

• Strange Attractor hosts talks at London’s Little Shoppe of Horrors throughout the autumn.

• Barney Bubbles in Mojo and more details of the new edition of Paul Gorman’s BB book.

• A blog devoted to all things having to do with Howard Pyle (1853–1911).

Erik Davis on Dreaming, Writing, Philip K Dick and Lovecraft.

10 Reading Revolutions Before E-Books.

Secular Exorcisms by Evan J Peterson.

• RIP Jean Benoît.

Street haikus.

I Put A Spell On You (1965) by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins; I Put A Spell On You (1965) by Nina Simone; I Put A Spell On You (2001) by Natacha Atlas.

Maldoror illustrated

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Les Chants de Maldoror by Corominas (2007).

There seems to be no escaping from HP Lovecraft just now, the illustration above having been created for a PDF publication entitled CTHULHU, Cómics y relatos de ficción oscura, produced by these people. The Cthulhu-zine seems to be unavailable but you can see more of these splendid illustrations, based on Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror (1869), at Dorian Gray BD. The artist, Corominas, has an additional blog showcasing more commercial work.

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Les Chants de Maldoror by Jacques Houplain (1947).

Lautréamont’s delirious masterpiece isn’t exactly the easiest book to illustrate but the Corominas drawings certainly capture some of its ferocious energy. The Surrealists were big Maldoror enthusiasts, of course, and did much to establish Lautréamont’s current reputation. Salvador Dalí produced a series of engravings for a Skira edition in 1934 although his drawings look less like illustrations of the text than a rifling of the artist’s usual preoccupations. The picture above by Jacques Houplain is one of a series of twenty-seven engravings produced for a French edition in the 1940s. More recently, Jean Benoît created (among other things) a Maldororian dog and there’s even been an attempt at a comic-strip adaptation from Hernandez Palacios. On the whole I prefer the Corominas pictures but then I’m biased towards that style of drawing which owes something to all the comic artists and illustrators influenced by Franklin Booth.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Franklin Booth’s Flying Islands
Carlos Schwabe’s Fleurs du Mal
The art of Jean Benoît

The fantastic art archive

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Previous posts about fantastic, surreal or visionary artists.

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The Execution of the Testament of the Marquis de Sade by Jean Benoît

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Ernst Fuchs, 1977

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Ernst Fuchs, 1930–2015

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The art of Aleksandr Kosteckij

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The art of Fabrizio Clerici, 1913–1993

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The art of Victor Linford, 1940–2002

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Heimkiller and High

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The Man Who Paints Monsters In The Night

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Hans by Sibylle

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The art of Jean-Michel Mathieux-Marie

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Gilles Rimbault redux

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Albert Goodwin’s fantasies

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The art of Roland Cat

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The art of James Gleeson, 1915–2008

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Sidney Sime paintings

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The art of Joanna Chrobak

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Giger’s Tarot

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Giger’s Necronomicon

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The art of Thomas Cole, 1801–1848

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Raymond Bertrand paintings

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Raymond Bertrand’s science fiction covers

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Visionaries: The Art of the Fantastic

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Starowieyski in Switzerland

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The art of Luis Toledo

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Jacques Brissot’s Hay Wain

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The art of Jindrich Styrsky, 1899–1942

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The art of Robert Venosa, 1936–2011

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Initiations in the Abyss: A Surrealist Apocalypse

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The fantastic and apocalyptic art of Bruce Pennington

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The art of Leonidas Kryvosej

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The art of Johfra Bosschart, 1919–1998

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The art of Aloys Zötl, 1803–1887

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Sibylle Ruppert revisited

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Sibylle Ruppert, 1942–2011

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In the Land of Retinal Delights

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Gilles Rimbault revisited

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The art of Martin Wittfooth

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The art of Carel Willink, 1900–1983

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Wilfried Sätty: Artist of the occult

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The art of Ran Akiyoshi, 1922–1982

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The art of Gilles Rimbault

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The art of Michael Hutter

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Boy, O Boy by Julie Heffernan

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The art of Jim Leon, 1938–2002

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Surrealist echoes

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The art of Laurie Hogin

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The art of Christian rex Van Minnen

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Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism

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The art of Oleg Denysenko

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The art of François Schuiten

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The art of Sibylle Ruppert

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The eyes of Odilon Redon

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Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists

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Franciszek Starowieyski, 1930–2009

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The art of Boris Indrikov

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The art of Mati Klarwein, 1932–2002

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The art of Pierre Clayette, 1930–2005

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The monstrous tome

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A Midsummer Night’s Dadd

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The art of Ian Miller

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The art of Leonor Fini, 1907–1996

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The art of Michel Henricot

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The art of Heidi Taillefer

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Set in Stone

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Against Nature: The hybrid forms of modern sculpture

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The art of Jean-Paul Faccon

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The art of Andrew Severynko

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The Hound of Heaven by RH Ives Gammell

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The art of Jean Carriès, 1855–1894

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Visions and the art of Nick Hyde

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The art of Julie Heffernan

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Custom creatures

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The art of Harold Hitchcock

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The art of Agostino Arrivabene

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The art of Takato Yamamoto

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The art of NoBeast

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A Madmen’s Museum

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The art of Andrey Avinoff, 1884–1949

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Imaginary maps by Francesca Berrini

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The art of Jacques Sultana

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Fantastic art from Pan Books

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The art of Jean Benoît

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The art of Bertrand

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Pierre Matter’s cyborg sculpture

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The art of José Hernández

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Czanara’s Hermaphrodite Angel

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The art of Sergei Aparin

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The art of Nicola Verlato

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The art of Stephen Aldrich

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The art of Rudolf Hausner, 1914–1995

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The art of Erik Desmazières

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The Codex Seraphinianus

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Surrealist women

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Leonora Carrington

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Two American paintings

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The art of Thomas Häfner, 1928–1985

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The art of Arnau Alemany

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The art of Jean Louis Ricaud

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The art of Gérard Trignac

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The Museum of Fantastic Specimens

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The art of Franz Xavier Messerschmidt, 1736–1783

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The art of Ernst Fuchs

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The art of Jean-Marie Poumeyrol

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Las Pozas and Edward James

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The art of Jean-Pierre Ugarte

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The art of Ljuba Popovic

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The art of Stanislav Szukalski, 1893–1987

More archive pages:
The archive page archive

The art of Jean Benoît

More French weirdness, and another Bertrand…

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The Necrophile (dedicated to Sergeant Bertrand) (1964–65).

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The Eagle, Miss…

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Adam and Eve.

A site about Jean Benoît
Another site about Jean Benoît

And speaking of the lonesome necrophile, Bret Wood’s film, Psychopathia Sexualis, features a shadow puppet rendering of the case of Sergeant Bertrand and his nocturnal grave-ravagings. You can watch an extract from it here.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
L’Amour Fou: Surrealism and Design
The Surrealist Revolution
Surrealism at the Hayward