*Paul GAUGUIN (1848-1903). Autograph MANUSCRIPT, Messieurs les Juges, Messieurs les Jurés, ; in-fol. 7-page notebook with cover marked "n° 4"; modern red morocco binding, gilt fillet frame on covers, title in gilt letters on top cover, smooth spine, slipcase.
Defense project against the prosecutor of Papeete.
Victim of theft, Gauguin had filed a complaint, but the prosecutor Édouard CHARLIER had not followed up. Furious, Gauguin had published in Les Guêpes in June 1899 an open letter to Charlier, with an insulting tone. Expecting to be prosecuted (but Charlier would not press charges), Gauguin prepared his defense here in advance, in a carefully calligraphic manuscript; a passage was pasted on a scratched version].
"It is necessary to speak here of press offences [...] in this famous letter which brings here an honest man to the bar of the Tribunal without any other defender than himself, so much so that in this colony a prosecutor can throw disarray and fear around him. This makes the situation of the poor colonist very interesting, since he is left at the mercy of arbitrariness and administrative power. All that remains for him then is to rely on himself, on the honorability of his just cause, and also on the impartiality of those who are there to judge him. Writing to Mr. Charlier, Papeete, I thought I was authorized to explain my grievances to him because he called himself my friend; a few conversations, no longer between prosecutor and artist but between friends, had made me think that he was from my world. But in my world it is established that any self-respecting man always puts his dignity before his interests. ...] In short, my letter said. Sir, you are beating me and it hurts me, so tell me if it is only to be mean to me, then I would be forced to ask you for satisfaction by force of arms. In my world and in all the countries of the world, this is considered honourable. And see if I'll do the honourable part for Mr. Charlier. On the one hand, he's young and flexible, and according to his statement, has 10 years' experience in the armoury. On the other hand, I am almost old, worn out by work and a heart disease, my still damaged feet barely supporting me, - all causes of inferiority in a singular fight ...
Gauguin did not want to denounce Charlier to the ministry, and kept "the language of a frank and loyal artist"... He protested against the absurdity and arbitrariness of this trial. He recalls the duties of the Prosecutor, and appeals to justice... "But when it is a question of vulgar indigenous bandits still in revolting recidivism of yesterday, and that the plaintiff acted only on the Prosecutor's own advice, the silence becomes not only incomprehensible, i.e. absurd, but also an encouragement to banditry: it annihilates all the work of the colonist delivered in this way (1 against 100) to a whole evil population barely out of barbarity. It is not then the plaintiff who revolts but morality and reason. The overthrow of the Bastille at the price of so much bloodshed would be a simple architectural demolition, the stone then coming to bury the word; the Human Rights of our century a decoy, trampled underfoot finally the Iniquity raised above the citizens on the tower of magistrates and laws. I have spoken of foolishness and in the face of this appreciation which has no double meaning and which has never been an insult, the mountain rises up "...
And Gauguin drew a bitter lesson from his possible condemnation: "From now on, do not expect to reap the fruit of your work; you will have to bow your head under the blows of a stick. Because it is the will of the Prosecutor and he has the power to do so. Sharpen your teeth, strip off your honest man's clothing, become a devouring wolf in your turn, and go and find your food in your neighbor's field, sure of impunity, because it is the good will of the Prosecutor. He has the power. Then finally, if you are a foreigner, go back to your homeland and explain to your brothers and sisters what the powers of a Public Prosecutor of the French Republic are. "
Provenance: sale after death of Gauguin's objects and papers in Papeete (2-3 September 1903); bought by Victor SEGALEN; Annie Joly-Segalen archives (sale 12 June 1992, n° 66).
Exhibition De Maillol et Codet at Segalen. The friendships of the painter Georges-Daniel de Monfreid and his relics of Gauguin (Galerie Jean LOIZE, 1951, n° 276).
Location of the item France - 75016 Paris