Jean Cocteau, 1889-1963

Jeune Homme de Dos - en Guise d'Orphée au Lyre. Study of a Young Man in the Guise of Orpheus with a Lyre. 1958.


Drawing in colour chalks – red, orange, olive and yellow.  1958. Signed in full in pencil, with Cocteau’s ‘Star’ symbol and dated 1958.

Provenance: Jean Cocteau Estate.

Inherited by Edouard Dermit, Cocteau’s close friend and the lead actor in Cocteau’s  most important films. Dermit was also acknowledged by Cocteau as his sole heir. Acquired from Dermit by the US private collector FM.

With very fresh colour crayon on Richard de Bas pale cream laid paper.  Sheet:  310 x 245 mm.


A beautiful example of Cocteau’s pure line drawing, with simple unhesitating perfection of stroke and very effective variation of chalk colour.

The Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus is one of the central themes of Cocteau’s art. Orpheus was renowned as a musician and poet whose powers were exercised through his physical charm and his music. These were also the qualities which Cocteau wanted to create through his plays, films and ballets. Cocteau saw Dermit as the embodiment of this mythological god and the ‘Orpheus’ image expresses this theme.

The Orpheus legends are one of the most important channels through which the myths of Ancient Greek culture influenced Western modern culture. Poetry, the cinema, opera and music in general, and also very many aspects of the pictorial arts have been profoundly affected by the imagery and spirit of the Orpheus legacy. Cocteau was an artist who worked in very many of these art forms – from ballet to painting, from film to poetry – and throughout his work there is the spirit of the Orpheus legend.


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