Valentine de Saint-Point

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Valentine de Saint-Point in 1914

Valentine de Saint-Point (born Anna Jeanne Valentine Marianne Glans de Cessiat-Vercell; 16 February 1875, Lyon - died 28 March 1953, Cairo), was a woman of letters and a French artist. She was a writer, poet, painter, playwright, art critic, choreographer, lecturer and journalist. She is primarily known for being the first woman to have written a futurist manifesto, but was also active in Parisian salons, and the associated literary and artistic movements of the Belle Epoque. Her writings and performances of La Métachorie, which demonstrated her theory of "a total fusion of the arts." The later period of her life was dominated by the politics of the Middle East and North Africa.

Early life[edit]

Saint-Point was the only daughter of Alice de Glans de Cessiat and Charles-Joseph Vercell. Her mother was the niece of poet Alphonse de Lamartine. The pseudonym Saint-Point took upon her entry into the literary world refers to the home of this famous ancestor, the Château de Saint-Point.[citation needed]

In 1883 her father died and Alice returned to Mâcon with her daughter, who grew up surrounded by her grandmother and tutor. In 1893 Valentine married Florian Theophile Perrenot, a teacher 14 years her senior. The following year he was appointed to Lons le Saunier, where Valentine met Charles Dumont, a philosophy professor and colleague of her husband. Dumont became her lover. In 1897, Perrenot was transferred to Corsica. This was Saint-Point's first trip to the Mediterranean. Perronot eventually transferred to Niort, where he died the summer of 1899.[citation needed]

Move to Paris[edit]

The 24-year-old widow moved to Paris where she reestablished her relationship with Charles Dumont, future minister of the Third Republic. The couple married June 20, 1900 at City Hall in Paris's 1st arrondissement. In 1902, she organized a literary salon where she rubbed shoulders with Gabriele D'Annunzio, who is nicknamed "the muse purple", Rachilde, Natalie Clifford Barney, Paul Fort, Gabriel Tarde, who saw her as "an amiable madness of nature," Alphonse Mucha and Auguste Rodin, for whom she posed, as well as other artists and politicians. Her friendship with the famous sculptor had importance in his artistic life, as evidenced by their correspondence.[citation needed] He called her the "goddess of the flesh of his inspiration in marble". She celebrated his work with poems (The Thinker and His Hands published in Poems of Pride in 1908) and an article, The dual Personality of Auguste Rodin, published in La Nouvelle Revue in November 1906. Rodin was often the guest of honor at her parties, contributing by his presence to make them prestigious.

In 1903, during a seance, which were in vogue at the time, she met Ricciotto Canudo, an Italian poet and writer born in Bari in 1877. Shortly thereafter, she filed for divorce, which was delivered on 20 January 1904. Several reasons for the divorce were circulated, including the fact that she posed almost nude for Mucha and Rodin, and the courtship of Canudo. The applicant said that she wanted to pursue her artistic vocation, and that she wanted to live independently.[citation needed] She took the name of Valentine Saint-Point and began a common-law relationship with Canudo, who actively supported her literary debut.

Literary debut[edit]

In January 1905 she published an article in The New journal entitled, Lamartine Unknown (Lamartine Inconnu), the title of which alluded to her poetic lineage. Following this she published her first collection of poetry, Poems of the Sea and the Sun which had been inspired by her trip to Spain with Canudo the previous year. In 1906, A Love, the first part of a trilogy, was well received by critics. She began her collaborations with several magazines such as The Artist Europe, The Mercury, The New Review, The Age, La Plume, and Gil Blas, whose founder was the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Incest which appeared at the beginning of the year 1907 collected mixed reactions from the public and critics. The theme of a mother initiating her son to physical love was the most controversial. The year 1909 was dedicated to theater. May 28, Valentine Theatre Arts presents a one-act drama, The Fallen which was published by The New Review. Criticism was harsh, but the work was the first part of her dramatic trilogy The Theater of Women. In 1910 she published A woman and desire, an unacknowledged autobiographical confession that enabled her to express a few truths about female psychology and women's roles in society. In 1911, she moved into a studio at 19 rue de Tourville where her art would become denser and its most popular. She participated for the first time in the Salon des Indépendants, where she exhibited paintings and woodcuts until 1914.

On 17 February 1912, she inaugurated her 'Apollonian' parties, which were reported in the press. Rachilde gave a reading of his play, The Seller of Sunshine and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti recited poems. Others that were present included, Philippe Berthelot, Saint-Pol-Roux, Boccioni, Gino Severini, Canudo, Florent Schmitt, Countess Venturini, Ms. Mendes-Cattule, etc..

Connection to Futurism[edit]

The year 1912 was primarily marked by the publication of the Manifesto of Futurist Woman, which Saint-Point wrote in response to the misogynist ideas in Marinetti's Manifesto of Futurism. It was read on June 27 at the Salle Gaveau, surrounded by the figureheads of the movement. The manifesto begins with the statement, "Humanity is mediocre. The majority of women are neither superior nor inferior to the majority of men. They are all equal. They all merit the same scorn." [1]

Although she joined the Futurists in celebrating the virtues of virility, she also wrote:

It is absurd to divide humanity into men and women. It is composed only of femininity and masculinity. Every superman, every hero, no matter how epic, how much of a genius, or how powerful, is the prodigious expression of a race and an epoch only because he is composed at once of feminine and masculine elements, of femininity and masculinity: that is, a complete being....

It is the same way with any collectivity and any moment in humanity, just as it is with individuals. The fecund periods, when the most heroes and geniuses come forth from the terrain of culture in all its ebullience, are rich in masculinity and femininity.

Those periods that had only wars, with few representative heroes because the epic breath flattened them out, were exclusively virile periods; those that denied the heroic instinct and, turning toward the past, annihilated themselves in dreams of peace, were periods in which femininity was dominant. We are living at the end of one of these periods. What is most lacking in women as in men is virility.

That is why Futurism, even with all its exaggerations, is right.[1]

Saint-Point advocated the concept of the woman-warrior, as opposed to the traditional sentimental feminine ideals such as the "good mother," and she conceptualized the "Überwoman" (sur-femme), as a counterpart to the Nietzschean Übermensch (surhomme).[2] She also addressed the theme of lust, described by Saint-Point as "a force". Saint-Point would develop this theme into a second manifesto, the Futurist Manifesto of Lust, which was published a year later. These writings, translated throughout Europe, were a sensation and put women at the center of the debates of the Futurist movement, which was increasingly popular.[citation needed] But true to her intellectual independence, Saint-Point declared in January 1914 in Hansard: "I am not a futurist, and I've never been, I do not belong to any school."

Valentine de Saint-Point in her living room in 1914

Métachorie[edit]

In May 1913 Theatre of the Women was published in Canudo's arts magazine Montjoie!, which published articles and drawings by many of the leading artists of the time. Saint-Point would continue to develop her ideas on theater and dance, which would eventually become La Métachorie, which she called "a total fusion of the arts." [2][3] Saint-Point's first exhibition of Métachorie took the form of a live performance on 20 December 1913 at the Theatre-Léon Poirier (Comedie des Champs-Elysées) in Paris. The show was a combination of light, sound, dance, and poetry. In October 1916, she published an article of the same name in Montjoie!.[2] In it, she wrote:

I write my dance graphically as an orchestral score. And if wanting to create a dance really essential, I expressed the general spirit of my poems by a natural geometric stylization is that geometry is the science of lines, that is to say, the essence of all visual arts, like arithmetic is the science of numbers, that is to say the very essence of rhythmic arts: music and poetry.

(..) in the Métachorie , is the idea which is the essence, the soul. Dance and music are suggested by it, we can say that Métachorie form a living organism, whose idea is the soul, the skeleton dance, music and flesh.[4]

In 1917, Saint-Point presented Métachorie at New York's Metropolitan Opera House.[2][5]

First World War[edit]

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Ricciotto Canudo, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Blaise Cendrars appealed to other foreign artists living in Paris to join the French army. Canudo enlisted in the army and fought in Macedonia. Saint-Point joined the ranks of the Red Cross, and worked as secretary to Rodin. In 1916 she left France in the company of Vivian Postel du Mas and Daniel Chenneviere. They went to Spain where they spend the summer months with the artist community based in Barcelona around Picabia. In November 1916 they set sail for the United States. Saint-Point was considering the possibility of establishing centers of dance inspired by her choreographic work, and gave a series of conferences across the country on Auguste Rodin, who had died shortly before.

Move to the Mediterranean[edit]

In 1918, she returned to France after a stay in Morocco, where she had converted to Islam. Back in Paris, the world she knew was gone, including her ties with old friends. Canudo had been wounded in the forehead and their relationship turned into friendship. Between 1919 and 1924, she made several trips to Corsica, where between her reading, including Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, and meditating, Saint-Point attempted to create a College of Elites who would work towards the formation of a 'Mediterranean spirit,' or a merger the west and east. The project failed. Saint-Point's mother died in Macon in 1920, severing her last link with Burgundy. Then in 1923, Canudo died. In 1924 she published her last novel, The Secret. She was almost fifty years old at this time and nothing remained to connect her to France.

At the end of 1924, accompanied by Vivian Postel du Mas and Jeanne Canudo, the widow of her former lover, Saint-Point moved to Cairo where her fame had preceded her. She joined a group of young writers and essayists, who organized debates, conferences and theatrical events. She wrote for various newspapers such as Liberty, and lectured. Along with Jeanne Canudo, she created a "center idéiste" which combines elements of her "College of Elites". End of 1925, she launched the publication of the Phoenix, a review the East's rebirth which cast a critical eye on Western policies in the Near and Middle East. She took up the causes of the Muslim world and Arab nationalism, challenging European imperialism and the cultural hegemony of the West.

In 1927 she wrote the preface of a book on Saad Zaghloul, and in 1928, The Truth About Syria by a witness was published in France. Saint-Point's political writings generated fierce feuds within the Francophone community. She was accused of working against the interests of France and of being a spy in the pay of the Bolsheviks. Meanwhile, conferences organized by the "center idéiste" were ended several times by violent disputes, which exasperated the Egyptian authorities and prompted them to expel Canudo Jeanne and Vivian Postel du Mas. While she was in Jerusalem in 1928, after spending two months in Lebanon to treat her health which had been shattered by the attacks to which she had been subjected, she was informed that she would be banned from returning to Egypt. She appealed to Philippe Berthelot, secretary general of the Quai d'Orsay. Eventually, the Ambassador in Cairo persuaded the authorities to allow her to remain in Egypt, but in return she would have to cease all political activities. In 1930 she became friends with Rene Guenon who just moved to Cairo.

The end of her life was spent in the study of religion and meditation, while living in destitution, giving occasional consultations on dowsing and acupuncture. She died 28 March 1953 and is buried in the cemetery of El-Imam Leissi in Muslim tradition and as the Rawhiya Nour el-Deen ("zealot of divine light").

Bibliography[edit]

Poetry

  • Poems of the sea and sun, Messein-Vanier (1905)
  • Poems of pride, editions of the Abbey & Figuiere (1908)
  • The Pale Orb, Eugene Figuiere (1911)
  • War, a heroic poem, Figuiere (1912)
  • The caravan of dreams, Week Egyptian, Cairo (1934)

Novels

  • Trilogy of Love and Death: A Love (1906), An Incest (1907), A death (1909), Vanier-Messein
  • A Woman and desire, Messein-Vanier (1910)
  • Thirst and mirages, Figuiere (1912)
  • The Secret concerns, Messein Albert (1924)

Theater

  • The Fallen (one-act play, 1909)
  • The Soul or the Agony of imperial Messalina tragedy in three times with incidental music, preceded by speeches about the tragedy and the tragic verse, Figuiere (1929)
  • Manifestos, theoretical texts and tests
  • Futurist Manifesto of Women (25 March 1912)
  • Futurist Manifesto of Lust (11 January 1913)
  • Theater of the Woman (1913)
  • The Métachorie (1913)
  • Saad Zaghloul, the "father of the people" Egyptian Foulad Yeghen, preface by Valentine de Saint-Point, Cahiers de France (1927)
  • The Truth about Syria by a witness, Cahiers de France, New Series (1929)
  • The Phoenix, Journal of the Eastern renaissance, led by Valentine de Saint-Point (1925 to 1927)

Reissues

  • Manifesto of the Futurist Woman, followed by Futurist Manifesto of Lust, Love and lust, The Theater of the Woman, My choreographic debut, The Métachorie, texts compiled, annotated and afterwords by Jean-Paul Morel, Arabian Nights Publishing, Paris, 2005.

Monographs (Theses and Essays)[edit]

  • Bentivoglio, Mirella and Zoccoli, Franca. Women Artists of Italian Futurism: Almost Lost to History, Arts Midmarch Press, New York, 1997.
  • Contarini, Silvia, “Valentine de Saint-Point: du Futurisme à l’anticolonialisme”, in Modernity and Modernism in the Mediterranean World (eds Luca Somigli and Domenico Pierpaolo), Legas, Toronto, 2006, 293-304.
  • Le Bret, Henri. Essay on Valentine de Saint-Point, Aloes, Nice, 1923.
  • Mallette, Karla. Textuality and Sexuality in Italian Futurism, Amherst MA, 1985.
  • Moore, Nancy Gaye. Valentine de Saint-Point: "La Femme Integrale" and her quest for a modern tragic theater in Agony of Messalina (1907) and La Métachorie (1913), Dissertation for the degree Doctor of Philosophy, Field of Theatre and Drama, Evanston, Illinois, 1997.
  • Reboul, Jacques. Notes on the morality of a "harbinger", Valentine de Saint-Point, Eugene Figuiere, Paris, 1912.
  • Richard de la Fuente, Veronique. Valentine de Saint Point, a poet in the forefront and Futuristic méditerranéiste, Edition Albères, Ceret, 2003.
  • Sina, Adrien (editor and curator). Feminine Futures: Performance, Dance, War, Politics And Eroticism, Les Presses du réel, Dijon, 2011. Catalog of exposition, New York, Italian Cultural Institute, November 3, 2009 - January 7, 2010. Texts in French, English, Italian, German. ISBN 978-2-84066-351-5
  • Verdier, Abel. Seeking the truth, Paris, 1978.
  • Zouari, Fawzia. The caravan of dreams (fictional biography), Olivier Orban, Paris, 1990.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b de Saint-Point, Valentine. "Valentine de Saint -Point, "Manifesto of Futurist Woman (Response to F. T. Marinetti)" (1912)" (PDF). Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Valentine de Saint Point, la Métachorie". Lettres et Arts. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "Valentine de Saint-Point [France]". Mr. Knife, Miss Fork. Green Integer. 
  4. ^ de Saint-Point, Valentine (Jan–Feb 1914). "Métachorie". Montjoie!. 
  5. ^ Satin, Leslie (Spring 1990). "Valentine de Saint-Point". Dance Research Journal. 22 (2): 1–12. doi:10.2307/1477736. 
  • Tate Etc. Summer 2009 (issue 16). Essay by Adrien Sina and Sarah Wilson. "Action feminine".
  • Feminine Futures – Valentine de Saint-Point – Performance, Dance, War, Politics and Eroticism. Curated and edited by Adrien Sina, PERFORMA Biennial, New York, November 3, 2009 - January 7, 2010. Les presses du réel, November 2011.

External links[edit]