La flûte, original 1885 version

La légende des sexes, poèmes hystériques et profanes (Legend of the Sexes: hysterical and secular poems) was French poet Edmond Haraucourt’s first published work, appearing in 1882 when he was 26 years old under the pseudonym Le Sire de Chambley. Like Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal, the subject matter which includes violent love and sexual allusion might seem rather tame today, but at the time it was subject to both censure and censorship.

In 1893 the Belgian publisher Auguste Brancart produced a version of La légende des sexes, commissioning twelve plates from van Maële. In order to evade censorship the place of publication was given as Brussels, but it was actually produced in Amsterdam and sold mostly in Paris. Van Maële’s large-format engravings, inspired by Chambley, are one of his masterpieces, characteristically surreal, dark and humorous. Complete sets of the portfolio are rare, as most of the unknown number of original copies were divided and the prints sold separately.

The twelve plates are:
     La chanson du moine (The Monk’s Song)
     La Parisienne (The Parisienne)
     L’obsession (The Obsession)
     Reine du monde (Queen of the World)
     Coït des atomes (Coitus of Atoms)
     Le crâne (The Skull)
     La flûte (The Flute)
     Mélancolie (Melancholy)