Lepoittevin’s carte de visite

Eugène Modeste Edmond Lepoittevin (he was born Poidevin, but preferred the more aristocratic-sounding Lepoittevin or Le Poittevin) was a talented French landscape painter, lithographer and caricaturist, a cousin of the writer Guy de Maupassant. He was trained as a painter at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris by Louis Hersent and Xavier Leprince, and from 1831 onwards exhibited at the Salon des Artistes. He was a regular contributor to The Journal of Painters and to Charles Philpon’s art journal La Caricature.

To polite nineteenth-century art circles he was best known as an accomplished landscape and marine artist. He made many landscape paintings of Étretat in Normandy; the Empress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Emperor Napoleon III, commissioned his ‘Les bains de mer à Entretat’. In 1849 he was appointed as Peintre de la Marine for the French Ministry of Defence, and painted many seascapes and scenes with harbours and ships.

La bagnade à Etretat, 1840

His work is exhibited in many museums in France, including the Maison de Balzac and the Hôtel de Brienne (home to the Ministry of Defence) in Paris, the Palace of Versailles, the Château de Dieppe, the Musée de la Faïence et des Beaux-Arts in Nevers, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, the Musée Magnin in Dijon, the Musée des beaux-arts in Troyes, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, the Musée des beaux-arts in Marseille, the Musée des beaux-arts in Chambéry, the Musée Sarret de Grozon in Arbois, and the Musée maritime de l'île Tatihou in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London also has several of his works.

But Lepoittevin also had another side to him, in which he exploited his skills as an engraver and his fertile imagination to create and develop a genre of sexual fantasy scenes known as ‘diableries’ or ‘devilries’. In an age when the stories of Faust and Mephistopheles were popular, Lepoittevin added his own visuals to the heady mix of sin and sex.