Paul Verlaine’s La trilogie érotique (more usually titled Oeuvres libres) consists of three collections of poems – Les amies, sonnets in praise of lesbian love; Femmes, hommage to Verlaine’s women friends and lovers; and Hommes, inspired by his homosexual experiences. It was a favourite text for erotic illustrators, and provided Martin van Maële with the inspiration for what his patron, Charles Carrington, considered his best work.
The fifteen plates, in which Verlaine appears as a character participating in a variety of the sexual fantasies painted in his poems, are wonderfully appealing. What is most striking about this suite is not only the realism and pathos of van Maële’s work, but also his innovative sense of humour.
La trilogie érotique was published ‘in Paris and London’ in a numbered limited edition of 225 copies.