Balzac face à Delacroix : le défi de peindre « l’intérieur d’un harem »

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Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski Jana Pawła II, Wydawnictwo Werset
In spring 1834, when he started writing The Girl with the Golden Eyes, Honoré de Balzac was imbued with by Eugène Delacroix’s work and figure. Both shared an attraction towards the Orient, which betrayed their tendency to romanticism. In 1834, the exhibition of the painting The women of Algiers in their Apartment encouraged a new impetus of the novelist’s oriental genius. From 1830, Balzac started to fulfill a dream: competing with Delacroix’s art by portraying the inside of a harem in the short story The Girl with the Golden Eyes, which he dedicated to the romantic painter. The hero, Henri de Marsay, conquers Paquita Valdès who is locked up in a luxurious Parisian hotel by her protector and lover, the Marquise of San Real. Paquita Valdès’s fatal passion for the Count unfolds against the backdrop of an oriental-like boudoir, where Delacroix’s cherished colours prevail: yellow and red. This duo of colours, which sustains the unity of the twofold short story, prompted the following comment by Albert Béguin, a literary critic: “Balzac took up the challenge of competing with visual arts and expressing through linguistic means what painters usually say through the play with colours.” Hence, the problematic question which motivates our study: How does Honoré de Balzac reproduce the romantic painter’s shape and colour language? We will first examine how the inordinate ambition to see everything and to have everything seen is expressed through Balzac’s art of composition, which he borrowed from Delacroix. The consecutive analyses of open and enclosed spaces will highlight Balzac’s treasured aesthetic law: the law of contrasts. The article will then show the aesthetic impact of the bodies and their stances upon the reader-viewer. Finally, the last part will focus on the suggestive potential of colour and motions in The Girl with the Golden Eyes.
The Girl with the Golden Eyes, fatal passion, oriental genius, the law of contrasts
"Quêtes littéraires" 2015, nº 5, s. 33-43