Black Venus by Angela Carter

V&A Illustration Awards 2019

Whilst reading Angela Carter's Black Venus - a collection of dark, often troubling, fantastical folk-like tales - I was struck anew by how visual her writing is. 


The titular short story is of Baudelaire and his mistress, Jeanne Duval, the 'Black Venus', who resided in Paris in the mid-late 19th century. No one knows for sure where Duval was born - perhaps Mauritius, or perhaps the Dominican Republic, but certainly somewhere exotic and most likely to the descendents of French-colonial slaves.


I found myself 'replaying' the story over in my head and felt inspired by a particular passage that, in a sarcastically romantic turn of phrase, describes the manner by which Duval made her way across the ocean to France - on a scallop-shell, accompanied by Albatrosses. Her medallion necklace depicts an18th century ship, symbolising her grandmother's journey in the opposite direction, most likely in chains.

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