Beyond being this woman of Arles celebrated to the point of caricature by the poets, artists and musicians of the end of the 19th century up until today, the Arlésienne cannot be reduced to a Graeco-Roman profile, a chiselled velvet ribbon and a lace headscarf, no matter how exceptional and mythic they may be. The Arlésienne myth began in 1651 with the discovery of the famous Venus in the ruins of the Théâtre Antique and it was revived in the middle and the end of the 19th century by Frédéric Mistral and the Félibres poets in a way which, through the 20th century, would sometimes become blurry, if not obscure. The anonymous but ‘eponymous’ character of one of the Lettres de mon moulin by Alphonse Daudet (1869), put to music by Georges Bizet (1872), met with such glory that the word almost became a common noun used to describe, in everyday language, a main character who never appears, is everything that we expect and hope for, but who we never see coming or arriving. Absence, in fact, but an ‘omnipresent’ absence, an almost palpable invisibility, the imprint of someone passing through, the waft of a perfume whose trace we follow until it is erased, disappears, becomes deliberately anonymous; the imprint of memories, the vestiges of memory, its scars. So many routes, so many possible themes and trails that will guide the selections in this exhibition in the chapel of the Hôtel Jules César, where we will endeavour to make the image of the ‘Arlésienne’, that of the 21st century, to ‘at last’ appear.
With support from L'OCCITANE en Provence.
Exhibition venue: Chapelle de la Charité, boulevard Des Lices.