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La Valse des roses

CAT 178 cropped.jpg

CAT 178. Drawn by Louise Darru after her painting La Valse des roses. In “La Peinture au Salon de Paris, 1879,” L’Art 5 (vol. 17, pt. 2) 1879: 186.

Louise Darru was born in Le Neubourg, to the west of Paris. A specialist in floral still lifes, she had exhibited at the Salon since 1864. The softly layered roses before the sheet music propped up by books create a sense of generous ease. The notes in the musical score are reproduced with enough clarity that a person could almost try to play them, but the commentator in L’Art playfully suggests that if someone out in the world should actually try to do this, the listener should not blame the pianist for any “faults of harmony” (p. 166). La Valse des roses sold in Paris for 205 francs in 1880 (Benezit 2006).

Beyond its pictorial allure, Melville is likely to have enjoyed this engraving for its plenitude of roses—the flower to which he devoted much time in his garden on East 26th Street during the years in which he collected his prints. In addition to writing the prose sketch “Under the Rose,” Melville composed “Nine Rose Poems” that he dedicated to his wife Elizabeth, as part of the unpublished collection of Weeds and Wildings, Chiefly: With a Rose or Two. In “The Ambuscade,” the first of the nine rose poems, “love’s slumbering germ” is “nurtured” by the “May-snow” until “time disclose / How frost fed Amor’s burning rose” (NN BBO 116).

Darru’s painting Summer Flowers Lying on a Book (fig. 1) gives some sense of her painterly eye for burning floral color.


Figure 1. Louise Darru. Summer Flowers Lying on a Book, oil on panel, 1868. Artnet, auctioned 2015.