Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mystery in Aden, part III

(parts I, II, IV)

If the faces in the following photos are the same person:

Henri Lucereau                                                                                                  (Henri Lucereau)

And the faces in these photos are the same person:

Alfred Bardey                                                                                                  (Alfred Bardey)

Then the faces below are almost certainly not the same person:

new rimbaud photo comparison                                                                                                  (Arthur Rimbaud)

* * *

Someone recently dug up a picture of Henri Lucereau and posted it online, and shortly thereafter it was revealed that Jean-Jacques Lefrère was soon to publish an article confirming that the man standing upright behind the others in the recent Aden/Rimbaud photo is indeed the young French explorer. (This was apparently established via contact with his descendants combined with the aid of three other photographs.) Knowing that this man is Lucereau -- assuming one of the other faces is correctly identified as Rimbaud -- provides important information because it helps date the photograph. (For more on Lucereau and why he's a figure of interest, see my previous post.)

It is known that Lucereau left Aden in July 1880 and was killed in the surroundings of Harar on October 20, 1880. Rimbaud arrived in Aden some time during the first half of August (possibly the 7th). Lucereau made a last passage through Aden between July and October, which, it has been said, can be dated to approximately the 10 - 20th of August. And at that time, Lucereau stayed at the Universe Hotel. Therefore, the photograph must be from August 1880 if both Lucereau and Rimbaud are in it.

The problem, however, is that Bardey was not in Aden for the entire month of August; he left in July to make his way towards Zeila, a port city on the Gulf of Aden. (He arrived in Harar around August 22.) Therefore, Bardey next to Lucereau excludes Rimbaud; the three of them simply cannot be there together at the Universe Hotel in August. Now, previously Jean-Jacques Lefrère said he was certain the man sitting on the end was Alfred Bardey, yet he's no longer sure (and thinks it probably isn't). More information is coming sometime in June, Lefrère says, that will hopefully clear up some of these issues. (Items dropped off at the Charleville-Mézières Rimbaud museum by Bardey's descendants, I think.) Indeed, Lefrère still believes it's Arthur Rimbaud in the photo (so do I). But we must wait to see the other portraits of Alfred Bardey, and also his brother, Pierre. And personally I would like to see pictures of Maurice Riès (bearded, second from left?), Cesar Tian, Vittorio and Giuseppe Bienenfeld, D. Pinchard, and a few others.

But who is that man, if not Bardey? Lefrère doesn't rule out the possibility that it's Colonel Dubar (brother-in-law of Jules Suel), or even Suel himself, who apparently is no longer marked as the checkered man in the photo. Bardey was only 26 in 1880, yet, in 1883 -- the year of the known photograph taken of him (see above) -- he's less-bald than he was three years earlier! I can think of no explanation for this except that he shaved his head in some bizarre style, which seems very far-fetched. Plus, he looks older -- or too old for 26 -- if that's really him in the Aden photo. (It is true that, once I finally decided it was probably Rimbaud in the photo, I also thought it was Bardey on the far left. If that's Rimbaud, I thought, then voila! that must be Bardey, his bearded boss! ...But I also didn't know that the picture of him I'm familiar with was taken after the Aden photo. Knowing this, it doesn't match up.)

Also worth noting: apparently there is a letter in which Bardey describes the chairs on the terrace of the Universe Hotel, and his description doesn't fit the chairs in the newly discovered photo...

* * *

Here is another photograph (Aden, around 1880) that was recovered in the same batch as the one being discussed. It's too blurry, I think, for anyone to make claims about any of the identities. Still, there is that mysterious figure at the center, le mythe de Rimbaud, and our imagination:

* * *

Finally, here are all the best photos (and comparisons) I could find of Rimbaud (mostly thanks to the great detective work done by members of the Rimbaud forum). Ones that appear to be pictures I've already posted are best enlarged because they are in fact the sharpest (and largest) versions I've been able to find.

* * *

rimbaud 1880 aden universe hotelnew rimbaud photonew rimbaud picture universe hotelnew rimbaud photo adenuniverse hotel aden l'universenew rimbaud photorimbaud comparison new picture africarimbaud photo comparisonsrimbaud photo comparisonsrimbaud photo comparisonsrimbaud carjat octoberrimbaud photograph compositerimbaud composite 1880 aden
The following photo will be familiar to all Rimbaud enthusiasts but I'm posting it because I've never seen it so cleaned up:

rimbaud in africarimbaud in africa


Hectocotylus said...

UPDATE: This was published on the 26th but I missed it. (My blog gets a mention)

On May 9th, Maurice Riès was identified in the photo by his great grandson as the second bearded man sitting on the left. I missed this news but inferred it here and there (hence my question in the above post), though I never knew it with certainty since I didn't know the basis for the claim.

I find all of this disconcerting. From the beginning I read in different articles that the photo had been meticulously studied by Lefrère, yet he never thought to seek out pictures of Lucereau, the last known Frenchman to stay at the Universe Hotel? Without pictures of the explorer, how did he know that "Rimbaud" wasn't actually Lucereau? (I wondered this myself after revisiting Robb's biography for information/context, though I quelled my suspicion with the assumption that Lefrère must have already seen pictures of Lucereau.) And if he was indeed doing all of this independently of the Rimbaud forum, why hadn't it been done before any announcements concerning the photo had been made public? It seems as though Lefrère spent all of his time on the Rimbaud face and neglected the others, even Bardey, whom he seems to have identified only through a well informed guess. But this is just my impression, of course. I have no clear idea of what has really been going on behind the scenes...

Sarah B. said...

After looking at the first sets of photos in your post, it is apparent the ones of Henri Lucereau are definitely photographs of the same person, but I believe the second set of Alfred Bardey are photographs of two different people. Notice the gentleman in the left photo has a left eye that is noticeably lower than his right while the gentleman in the right photo has a left eye higher than his right. While tilting one's head will produce this sort of difference in photos, the man in the right photo would have to be tilting at an extreme and noticeable angle to achieve that effect.

Hectocotylus said...

Still no information on the bearded man sitting at far left, or on the checkered man sitting in the center. But the two remaining people have (probably) been identified.

What follows is my touch up of two excerpts I took from an article written by Jean-Jacques Lefrère that was published on June 5th. (A "touch up" because it was translated for me by... google.)

"...other characters have been recognized by their direct descendants, using vintage photographs: one, the second bearded [man on the left] could be Maurice Ries, family confirmation is pending... Two others, Edward Joseph Bidault de Glatigné and his wife. He is the second man standing, leaning slightly and directing his gaze to his wife, Augustine-Emily, who has every reason to be seated: she is six months pregnant (she will give birth to a baby Cecilia, who will come to Aden November 11, 1880). [...] Bidault is a photographer and traveler - more a traveler than photographer - who will host Rimbaud in his home in Harar in a few months."

He then goes on to speculate that the man in checkered pajamas could be Colonel Dubar's grandfather.

* * *

"Before knowing the exact date of the photograph, we had mentioned in the article of literary stories that the face of Rimbaud was "of a tired man" and "a little lost" , displaying an "expression of weariness". We now know that this picture was taken when Rimbaud was sick or just recovering from an illness after an exhausting journey probably along the Red Sea ports. Moreover, one of the most common reactions when this portrait was made public, was to claim that Rimbaud [did not have the] head of a poet, that we could not find any of this expression of being lost in the dream that expresses the famous photograph taken by Carjat. This is, in fact, true. But can we blame Rimbaud, who had recently arrived in Aden from hard times, and who is recovering from sickness, not to have posed for the photographer as a poet, nor even as a former poet?"

Hectocotylus said...

Jacques Desse, one of the booksellers who discovered the Rimbaud photo, was kind enough to email me some of the newest information.

There is a 100 page online document (by Alban Caussé & Jacques Desse) that can be scrolled through and read HERE (in French). It contains an incredible amount of research, including various photos and comparisons.

Six of the people in the photograph have now been identified (everyone but "pajamas" seated in the middle). The Bardey double is photographer and African explorer Georges Révoil. Now it's basically 100% that the photo is indeed Rimbaud.

And a blog (in French) devoted to the Aden photo can be found HERE.

Anonymous said...

Świetnie,znakomicie,że odnaleźliście to nowe zdjęcie z Rimbaudem.Wielki poeta i z krwi i z kości człowiek.Ukłony - marek danielkiewicz (Pologne)

Tyler said...

Thanks Marek (if I understand you correctly; I used a translation program found online).

Part 4 of the saga is upcoming... (I'll probably post it next month)

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your Rimbaud saga.
Will you post the next part soon?

Tyler said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Sure, I'll gladly work on the next part and post it within the next two weeks. It's not quite as compelling as all of the above, but there have been some new developments.

And thanks for prompting me. I've been meaning to get around to part IV but lacked proper motivation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I was very excited to read about the photo and sent your page to my friends - poets. It´s almost unbelievable to see a new portrait of our favourite poet.

Tyler said...

Sorry for the delay! Part IV is coming sometime this week! More developments than I thought... Been caught up in a maelstrom of articles and arguments.