Les minutes de sable mémorial

A crude draftsman, Jarry developed a personal iconography early in life, using imagery at times like a private language. Owls, spirals, heraldry, and religious or occult symbols recur as motifs in his book illustrations. The chameleons situated above and below the two men in this woodcut evoke a cryptic passage at the end of Haldernablou (1894)—a short play by Jarry about a tragic love affair between a duke and his page. The title is a portmanteau word that integrates the characters’ Breton names (Haldern and Ablou). Both the play, which was originally called Caméléo, and the illustration of the creatures (in French, caméléons) allude to the love affair Jarry had at age eighteen with the younger poet Léon-Paul Fargue. The pair explored Paris and its underworld together while Fargue introduced Jarry to the art scene and literary salons. Their relationship appears to have ended just before the play was published.

Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), Les minutes de sable mémorial (Paris: Mercure de France, 1894). The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman, 2017. PML 197017.