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Jeanne Duval as drawn by Charles Baudelaire.
Possibly Jeanne Duval,|
or Jeanne Lemer
6 rue de la Femme-sans-tête|
Jeanne Duval (French pronunciation: [ʒan dyˈval]) (c. 1820 – c. 1862) was a Haitian-born actress and dancer of mixed French and black African ancestry. For 20 years, she was the muse of French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire. They met in 1842, when Duval left Haiti for France, and the two remained together, albeit stormily, for the next two decades. Duval is said to have been the woman whom Baudelaire loved most, in his life, after his mother. She was born in Haiti on an unknown date, sometime around 1820.
Poems of Baudelaire's which are dedicated to Duval or pay her homage include: "Le balcon" (The Balcony), "Parfum exotique" (Exotic Perfume), "La chevelure" (The Hair), "Sed non satiata" (Yet she is not satisfied), "Le serpent qui danse" (The Dancing Serpent), and "Une charogne" (A Carcass).
Baudelaire called her "mistress of mistresses" and his "Vénus Noire" ("Black Venus"), and it is believed that, to him, Duval symbolized the dangerous beauty, sexuality, and mystery of a Creole woman in mid-nineteenth century France. She lived at 6, rue de la Femme-sans-tête (Street of the Headless Woman), near the Hôtel Pimodan.
Duval may have died of syphilis as early as 1862, five years prior to Baudelaire, who also died of syphilis. Other sources also claim that Duval survived Baudelaire. Nadar claimed to have seen Duval, last, in 1870—by this time she was on crutches, suffering heavily from syphilis.
Jeanne Duval serves as a main character in Caribbean author Nalo Hopkinson's The Salt Roads, a work of historic fiction, and also in the title story of the collection Black Venus by Angela Carter. The film My Heart Laid Bare, by Disruptive Element Films, is about the life of Jeanne Duval.
The noted American conceptual artist Lorraine O'Grady has developed a 16-diptych photo-installation featuring paired images of Charles Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval called Flowers of Evil and Good. Preliminary studies for this installation have already been exhibited in such spaces as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the Thomas Erben Gallery, New York, and Galerie Fotohof, Salzburg, Austria. O'Grady has also written extensively about the relationship of Charles and Jeanne in such publications as Mousse Magazine and Pétunia: magazine féministe d’art contemporain et de loisirs.
Scottish artist Maud Sulter created several artworks inspired by Duval, using images such as her photograph by Nadar, and self-portraits of the artist. Many of these were displayed in a solo show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery called Jeanne Duval: A Melodrama.
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- 20 English translations of Baudelaire's poem "The Balcony", addressed to Jeanne Duval