In 1983 a tiny French publisher working out of a village house in the small community of Servon in the Île-de-France commissioned Pichard to illustrate two erotic classics – Pierre Louÿs’ Trois filles de leur mère and the French translation of the anonymous German Aus de Memoiren einer Sängerin (Memoirs of an Opera Singer). They were the only two books ever published by Jean Antoine, but contained some of Pichard’s best work.
Pierre Louÿs was never afraid of taking risks in his prodigious output, and among the many secret manuscripts discovered after his death, subsequently auctioned off and scattered among collectors, was the manuscript of Trois filles de leur mère (The Three Daughters of Their Mother). In the introduction, Louÿs writes ‘This book is not a novel, it is a true story in every detail. I have not changed anything about the mother and her three girls, their ages, or their circumstances. The narrative is wholly inspired by the free relationship between the author and the wife of José Maria de Heredia and her three daughters.’
Written around 1910, describes in the first person the developing sexual relationships between the writer and a thirty-six year old prostitute, Teresa, and her three daughters, twenty-year-old Charlotte, Mauricette, fourteen and a half, and Lili, ten. The daughters, having learned well from their mother how to please themselves and their client, engage in an amazing variety of sexual exploits.
Just how autobiographical the book is is open to question, though Louÿs’ reference to Teresa de Heredia, whose daughter Louise he was married to for several years, gives it an edge of credibility. Beyond its possible autobiographical value, the work draws its power, its realistic dialogue and its love of transgression from the bourgeois universe to which the author belonged. According to André Pieyre de Mandiargues, who wrote a preface in to a a new edition in 1970 ‘This text is the ideal of the erotic genre, and constitutes masterpiece of Pierre Louÿs’ masterpiece.’ For those who can read French, there is a complete online text of Trois filles here.
Pichard’s images take Louÿs’ transgressive text into the realms of transgressive illustration, leaving nothing to the imagination, especially the range of items which can be inserted into bodily orifices.