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Maud Sulter | Jeanne Duval: A Melodrama

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2003
Published by: National Galleries of Scotland
Year published: 2003
Number of pages: 64
ISBN: 1 903278 46 5

image of Maud Sulter | Jeanne Duval: A Melodrama

Important, extensively illustrated catalogue for Jeanne Duval | A Melodrama, a major exhibition,  an innovative investigation into (art) history, by Maud Sulter, held at National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 30 May - 31 August, 2003.

The central aspect of the exhibition consisted of self-portraits of the artist, in the guise of Jeanne Duval. From the back cover of the catalogue: “Maud Sulter, the Scots-Ghanaian cultural historian, photographer, and poet explores the legacy of Jeanne Duval, who was the intimate companion and Black muse of the French poet, Charles Baudelaire, and the inspiration for some of his greatest verses… In new works, La Chevalure and Les Bijoux, Sulter returns to the theme of self-portrayal in the guise of Jeanne Duval.”

In her introduction to the work and the catalogue for the Edinburgh exhibition, Sulter wrote: “Western art and literature are littered with traces of the continuum of a Black African presence, which sadly continues to be invisibilised and marginalised. While the likes of Pushkin, Beethoven, Dumas: pére et fils and the great forefathers are deracinated the women are simply disappeared. From the anonymous sitter in Marie-Guillemine Benoit’s Portrait d’une négress, 1800 to successful artists in their day, such as the nineteenth-century African American Edmonia Lewis who worked in Rome, the fate of the Blackwoman artist or writer continues to be negotiated at the margins.

My ongoing visual fascination with Jeanne Duval began in 1988 with a visceral response to a Nadar photograph captioned Unknown Woman. There she stared at me willing me to give her a name, an identity, a voice. So for over a decade I have been image making with her in mind, from Calliope in Zabat, 1989 to Les Bijoux, 2002.”

The catalogue is extensively illustrated with the artist’s past and present work, plus archival images relating to Sulter’s (art) historical investigations.

Contents as follows:

Colour cover, with one of Sulter’s self-portraits

(Another full page Sulter self-portrait on page 3)


Foreword, by Sir Timothy Clifford, Director-General, National Galleries of Scotland, and James Holloway, Director, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Dramatis Personae, by Julie Lawson

Introduction, by Maud Sulter

Maud Sulter on Negotiating the Muse

Le Chevelure

Maud Sulter on Jeanne Duval

Jeanne: A Melodrama

Les Bijoux

Duval et Dumas

Deborah Cherry on Zabat


Aubade, by Maud Sulter

Calliope, by Maud Sulter


Photographic credits

(As mentioned, the catalogue’s texts are interspersed with the artist’s past and present work, plus archival images relating to Sulter’s (art) historical investigations.)



Related people

»  Maud Sulter

Born, 1960 in Glasgow, Scotland. Died, 2008

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Edinburgh, United Kingdom