An exceptional drawing by Félicien Rops, the second version of La Dame au Pantin, is joining the permanent collection of the Namur museum dedicated to the artist and his work, thanks to the Charles Vreeken Fund.
The Charles Vreeken Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, has acquired the second version of La Dame au Pantin (Woman with a Puppet), an emblematic work by Félicien Rops that exists in four versions. This acquisition has now completed the third version of the work, which has been owned by the King Baudouin Foundation since 1997 and is exhibited at the Félicien Rops Museum in Namur. The work is also part of a wider collection of some fifteen of the artist’s most famous works, which will forever be cared for and made accessible to the general public, thanks to the joint efforts of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, the King Baudouin Foundation and the Province of Namur.
La Dame au Pantin (1877) by Félicien Rops is a masterpiece of symbolic and mythological motifs. This second version, acquired in 2023 by the Charles Vreeken Fund managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, has come from the famous private collection of Jean-Pierre Babut du Marès. Thanks to this purchase, the second and third versions of the work, which are already owned by the King Baudouin Foundation, can now be exhibited together at the Félicien Rops Museum in Namur.
Several versions of the same masterpiece
This famous subject, La Dame au Pantin drawn by the 19th century Namur artist Félicien Rops, exists in four versions known of today, created between 1873 and 1890. In 1997, the King Baudouin Foundation acquired the third version of the work, dated 1885, through its Heritage Fund. The second, recently-acquired version, was created in 1877 as a watercolour on paper and is almost 60 cm high. It illustrates a woman holding a male puppet in her hand, from whose split belly are falling pieces of gold. The femme fatale, portrayed as a dominatrix with bared breasts, is standing before a classically-inspired altar, looking at her victim both sympathetically and ironically.
Félicien Rops, subversive and symbolist
This work is as famous as the artist’s Pornocratès (or Woman with a Pig). Born in 1833, into a Catholic and bourgeois family, Félicien Rops nevertheless excelled in representing oneiric scenes whose meanings were cutting to this privileged social milieu. A figure of his time, with La Dame au Pantin Rops portrays the power of sensual woman over omnipotent man. Here, the woman is powerful and seductive and renders the male puppet, dressed as a bourgeois, her toy. We can see this exploitation again in the motif used on the frieze of the altar, decorated with puppets, above which is written the Latin inscription Ubi Mulier, referencing female power. The classic and mythological influences present in the work mark a turning point in the artist’s work, when he moved from a certain realism towards symbolism.
This drawing has come from the collection of Jean-Pierre Babut du Marès, who died in 2019. As a collector of Belgian art from the 1960s onwards, he collected a significant number of works by Félicien Rops, which were regularly loaned for international exhibitions. This second version of La Dame au Pantin was entrusted to the Province of Namur in 2003, with the mission of caring for, conserving and exhibiting the work at the Félicien Rops Museum. The public’s unquestionable interest in, and attraction to, such a work of heritage at the Museum persuaded the King Baudouin Foundation to acquire the drawing. The two versions of this work will now continue to be exhibited together.
The Charles Vreeken Fund
Managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, the Charles Vreeken Fund focuses on the acquisition, conservation and promotion of works by Belgian artists from all periods and of all disciplines. The Fund’s principal mission is to support museums in Belgium in exhibiting their collections and in projects that build their awareness.