Paul Verlaine’s notorious Oeuvres libres consists of three collections of poems – Les amies (1867), sonnets in praise of lesbian love; Femmes (1890), a homage to Verlaine’s women friends and lovers; and Hombres or Hommes (1890), inspired by his homosexual experiences. Officially banned by the French government until 1949, they circulated widely underground, and it was almost the duty of any erotic illustrator to provide a graphic accompaniment to Verlaine’s verses.
In around 1935 Annenkoff was commissioned by ‘Les amis de Paul Verlaine’ to produce a set of illustrations for the Oeuvres libres, which he did in his own simple yet expressive avant-garde style. It was the only truly erotic project he completed, though in 1945 he did also illustrate two of the works by the cross-dressing aristocrat François Timoléon, abbé de Choisy, for Aux Editions des Quatre Vents.
Femmes/Hombres/Les amies was published in a limited numbered edition of 400 copies, of which 200 were illustrated. An unknown number had one or more of the drawings coloured in deep rust red.