Confidences de Célestine is a portfolio of drawings created by Edelmann to illustrate Octave Mirbeau’s classic Le journal d’une femme de chambre (A Chambermaid’s Diary). Mirbeau (1848–1917) was an experimental avant-garde writer of transgressive novels which among other themes explored violence, abuse and psychological detachment.

In Le journal Mirbeau takes on the hypocrisy of the French upper classes, portraying them through the eyes of the highly intelligent chambermaid Célestine. Her first employer fetishises her boots, a post which ends when she discovers him dead with one of her boots stuffed into his mouth. She then becomes the maid of an upper class couple, the Lanlaires, and is aware that she is being entangled in the power struggles of their marriage. But Célestine is not above class issues herself; in the end she becomes a café hostess who mistreats her servants as badly as she was treated herself.

Edelmann’s deceptively simple monochrome drawings match Mirbeau’s powerfully ironic text, using the minimum of line and shading to impart the sense of ever-present threat.

The Edelmann Célestine portfolio was published in a limited numbered edition of 75 copies.

We are very grateful to Hans-Jürgen Döpp for these images; Hans-Jürgen, the compiler of many books on erotic art, curates the Venusberg online gallery and bookshop which you can find here.