There are no two ways about it – Petites femmes le matin (Young Girls in the Morning) is a very sweet portfolio, and given the subject and the observer the images appear innocent enough. Who though knows the motivation of those who bought this portfolio of sanguine (brick red) drawings, with their accompanying poems by Paul Sonniès (1853–1928)?

The ten drawings, each of a naked young girl together with a diminutive baby as a marginal companion remarque, are only really erotic in the eye of the reader-viewer, given they are at face value an honest representation of exactly what someone might look like first thing in the morning. They are certainly well-observed and well-drawn, so maybe we can give both artist and poet the benefit of the doubt.

Here is the first of the poems:


Étirant lentement ses bras blancs, la mignonne
Qui dormait sur le lit, au tic tac monotone
De l’horloge, se dresse et baille avec ennui.
L’archer aux fleches d’or est vainqueur de la nuit;
Sa gloire triomphale illumine la grève.
Il rient, le chasseur d'ombre et le tueur de rêve!
Pauvre petite belle, il faut te réveiller.
Di-moi quel oiseau bleu to suivan au passage?
Étais-tu vierge folle, étais-tu vierge sage,
Et quelle vision a su t’emerveiller?
Quelqu'un soupirait-il en tremblant: Je vous aime?
Qui le saura jamais! Le sais-tu bien toi-même?


Slowly stretching her white arms, the young girl
Sleeping on the bed, the monotonous tick-tock
Of the clock, stretches and yawns with boredom.
The archer with golden arrows conquers the night;
His triumphant glory lights up the scene.
He laughs, the shadow-hunter and the dream-killer!
Poor little beauty, you have to wake up.
Tell me, which passing bluebird will you follow?
Are you a mad virgin, are you a wise virgin,
And what vision has caught your attention?
Someone sighing, trembling: I love you?
Who will ever know! Do you know yourself?

Petites femmes le matin was published ‘by the author’ (presumably Sonniès) in a limited numbered edition of 300 copies.