Novelist, dramatist, film-maker, painter and designer, but primarily a poet, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) belongs, in his love of formal perfection and the myths of Greece and Rome, to the great French classical tradition. He also ranks as a Surrealist for his constant need to challenge convention. As Diaghilev used to say: “Jean, étonne-moi!” (Astonish me!). In his line-drawings he returns obsessively to the profile of the same youth with the intense gaze that he used for the Mouton label for 1947.
The original is lost: the drawing in the case is by Cocteau’s lifelong friend Jean Marais, the actor and painter – and possessor of the famous profile – who agreed at Philippine de Rothschild’s request to make a copy.