Neal Baer Collection

Jean Cocteau

Erotique–Arlequin Dansant [Erotic drawing –Dancing Harlequin]


Crayon and pastel on paper

16 1/2 x 13 in(42 x 33 cm)(sheet size)

Image courtesy of Sotheby's

This work on paper is representative of Cocteau’s erotic drawings and his interest in the figure of the harlequin, a comic stock character of the Italian commedia dell’arte. A diamond-clad servant pursuing his interests in romance and food with equal intensity, the harlequin became a ubiquitous figure in popular culture by the turn of the 20th century and was significantly appropriated by avant-garde artists, notably Pablo Picasso. A primary feature of the harlequin was his physical agility and he would often perform acrobatics on stage. Here, Cocteau’s harlequin sports prodigious male genitalia on the outside of his costume while he is mid-dance, a playful emphasis of the stock character’s perseverance in satisfying his sexual desires. 

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) was a leading member of the French avant-garde, producing poems, plays, novels, drawings and films. Among his best-known works is the novel Les Enfants Terribles (1929) and his films Le Sang d’un poète (Blood of a Poet) (1930), La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) (1946), and Orphée (Orpheus) (1949). A major figure in Dada and Surrealism, Cocteau was open about his homosexuality and produced many drawings of friends, lovers and his social world.

Private Collection, France
Sotheby’s Sale L20307, 11 February 2020, Lot 29

See also
Jean Cocteau in the collection of the Art Institute of ChicagoJean Cocteau in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Jean Cocteau in the collection of the MoMA

James McAuley, “The Tragic, Fascinating History of Santo Sospir,” Town and Country Magazine, August 13, 2018