Very rare ALS in French, signed “Henry de T. L.,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 4.5 x 7, no date (but 1879). Letter to his little cousin and goddaughter. In full (translated): “My dear little beast who catches the rabbits, you are a very well-balanced young girl, and you never do anything without knowing precisely why. If you had been born in the times of Solon, you would certainly have been called into his inner circle. You would have looked very funny with a pointed hat and carrying large books. As you have behaved well, I will make you a GIFT, and will give it to you at the Bosc [a family home]. First of all, the most precious element in this whole story will be…my godfatherly blessing, then a collection of kisses, then something yellow wrapped in paper…try and guess!
There is only one thing I disapprove in you. It is your choice of a spelling teacher [her brother Raoul], as he is a being who possesses a very small brain. To be convinced of what I say, put your rabbitic paw over the head of your illustrious brother, and you will clearly feel an abyss. It is so deep that you will be terrified to fall into it. Now you ask me what is the relation between this abyss and the brain of your spelling master. Here is the reason; the brain is a bowel that produces intelligence and is located in the head. Instead of the abyss that frightens you there should be his brain and this is why this dear magister is not at all intelligent!!! As we do ride asses, if you want to emulate us, do ride your spelling master. Do not fear he will fart, as asses often do. To correct him of this vice, take a menacing countenance and shut your nose. That is the best hint I can give you. There is here a Prussian king. I am pretty sure that if you were here in Barèges with me you would break his neck on the spot, although he is not a rabbit. Good bye dear little dear, be my representative with Grandma, my uncle, your brothers, the abbot, aunt Armandine, mademoiselle Rose and everyone else, including your singing birds. I kiss you on the two cheeks of your little face (not the others).” In fine condition. This extremely early ALS is published in The Letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec by Herbert D. Schimmel, Oxford University Press, 1991.
In August of 1879, when fifteen-year-old Toulouse-Lautrec broke his right femur in Barèges—just one year after breaking the left—halting his growth completely, it became clear that he would not live the life of a typical young nobleman. Unable to participate in normal physical activities, he began studying under the painter Rene Princeteau, well known for his depiction of military and equestrian subjects. His influence can be easily spotted in Lautrec’s earliest works, such as Artilleryman Saddling His Horse, Assembly of Hunters, and Horse and Rider with a Little Dog, all done the year of this letter. Painting a fairy-tale picture with words in this letter to his young goddaughter, Béatrix Tapié de Céleyran (later the subject of one of his highly regarded portraits), Lautrec shows the captivating wit that helped him find his place in the bohemian circles of Monmartre, despite his physical deformity. An absolutely charming letter written at a crucial time in the young artist’s life, as his body ceased to grow and his artistic talent took center stage. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.