Saturday, 22 September 2012

Degas and Sickert do the Whitechapel murderer and the secret letter delivery service

With an expose from Renoir on the secret letter delivery service.

(Click on the pictures to see them in full if necessary.)

 Edgar Degas and Walter Sickert in1885. Note the aspiring mustache and general appearance in Walter.

Walter saw Edgar Degas regularly throughout the 1880s while he was Jimmy's ( Whistler's) apprentice. Recently this has been reported  to have caused friction between Walter and Jimmy due to the latter's much supposed outsize ego and excessive demands on his loyal disciples, the 'Lions of the Butterfly', but I can find no evidence of jealousy of Edgar Degas from Jimmy. On the contrary, there seems to be a great deal of shared  inspiration between the two mature masters who had the well documented ( and genuine) profound influence on Walter throughout the the 1880s which was to last his whole life. Walter and Edgar enjoyed a long and productive association following Walter's visist to the latter in France on behalf of 'Mon Maitre' ( Whistler).

When Walter first met the French Maitre in 1884 he was running ( yet another) errand on Whistlers part. When he attended the studio at Paris and they met, he and took his hat of politely, repeating that he was there in behalf of 'Mon Maitre'. When guided round the latest paintings, his top hat clasped to his chest, he looked as politely unimpressed as he could muster, making nonchalant observations such as 'I see,' 'Well', 'Yes'. and 'quite so'. .
Walter was extremely diligent in his respects to Jimmy in the early days, he never made a mistake. ' There is only Degas and myself', Whistler said. Not 'There is only me.'
Evidently Walter got out of Edgar Degas' studios and staggered down the stairs and collapsed with delight on the road outside, but he said nothing  to indictae his true response while there.
A number of Walter's secret and personal sketches that he kept all his life appear to have been carried out in Edgar's company as well as in Jimmy's.

Below, a pastel painting by Edgar Degas ostensibly featuring  'Mary Jeanette Stuart', who in Chelsea, Fitzrovia and Whitechapel often went by the name of 'Mary Jane Kelly' , often calling herself  'Marie Jeanette'. She would often call herself 'Marie Jeanette' when in Whitechapel, according to the faithful Whitechapel witnesses of the era, many of whom put it down to a 'fanciful whim'.She would 'put on airs', according to East End and Fitzrovia locals, and seemed to be 'hiding a respectable background'.

Degas titled this pastel  ' Reading a letter.'

Compare the female subject, seated at the table to the left of the painting, with the drawings of  the 'Mother' in the 'Mother and child' sketches by Jimmy Whistler ( here, in the post 'Whistler, Sickert , and the lost prince' ) And below:

 And as she appears in James McNeill Whistler's 'tete a tete in the garden'.( where she ostensibly appears with the very young Prince Eddy)... ..

..the young Stuart girl's profile's been slightly accentuated, and possibly satirized a tiny bit by Degas, given the context, but it's clearly her nonetheless, isn't it.

Looking at the relevant painting detail, at first one simply sees Marie Jeanette seated at a table,  her delicate arms on the table outstretched, and wonders where the letter is. 'Reading a letter', the pastel painting is titled.

Look though, at the man seated opposite marie Jeanette, smoking a cigar. His face is blanked out, and appears almost as if it's covered were a cloth- exactly as the express depiction of the 'Whitechapel murderer' appears in Walter Sickert's  paintings. ( see posts showing that figure and the corresponding analysis here 'Walter Sickert and revelations from Mornington', and also here, 'Found in London Lamplight' .)

See how the sinister looking man smoking a cigar holds a letter to his chest in Edgar Degas' painting. Edgar is apparently indicating that this man is the 'Whitechapel murderer' who has taken Prince Eddy's letter that was destined for Marie Jeanette from her, and that its him who's doing the reading. Just as Marie Jeanette indicated in her message left in the 'Standard' newspaper directly after the night of the 'double murders' ( when two of the world famous 'Whitechapel murders' were committed... one murdered woman was delivering a letter and the other murdered woman is recorded in the National Archive files as having been seen collecting a parcel from a man unidentified in said files moments before she died.... ) where she wrote in a message intended for 'ALBERT EDWARD' ..I have received neither letter nor parcel.'  See how in the pastel painting Marie Jeanette seems to be staring past the man at the table, almost as if in her world, he is not present. Ostensibly Edgar is suggesting that this letter stealing character has operated behind the scenes and taken the letter that had been intended for her. And this man, ostensibly, is 'The Whitechapel murderer'. ( In fact as we know there were several men, the murders were committed by Special Branch police and the colloquialism 'Jack the Ripper' is a misnomer.)

In Walter Sickert's secret and personal sketch collection there a very similar man depicted to the one that appears in Edgar Degas' paintings, apparently wandering about  Fitzrovia, among the dandy gents. Here, below. It's clearly the same man as the one depicted by Degas in the painting above. The exact way the face is obscured, the cigar, the exact shape of the hat, the stature. Observe the stature closely. That is a senior police officer going about secret business, n'est ce pas. Ostensibly Chief John Littlechild, Commissioner Anderson, or Melville. And I think we can conclude he's got a letter he's intercepted in tucked inside his coat there.

Detail example from a Walter Sickert oil painting below, from the painting 'Ethel coming down the stairs at Newington', ( a disguise of a title) by Walter Sickert ( the man creeps up behind Annie Chapman, he holds a letter in his right hand and a huge knife in his left, he wears what seems to be a dark bowler hat, and there's a cloth pulled down over his face. The hat is slightly different from the hat that appears in Edgar Degas' picture) : 

 The exquisite  record of the 1880s, this 'lost epoque' and the beautiful 'clue pictures' do not uniquely derive from Walter Sickert, nor even from Walter and Jimmy combined. Many  era impressionists and post impressionists recorded the events of Cleveland Street and Whitechapel for posterity. Not all depict Marie Jeanette herself with witness style exactitude. Perhaps some heard about her, and others saw her, or even saw it all ( as with walter Sickert  and James McNeill Whistler and apparently Edgar Degas.) 

Below, 'Prince' Pierre Auguste Renoir's' signature upon his beautiful  painting 'Woman reading a letter'. She is evidently wearing the white Stuart rose. 

Note the similarity of this lovely flower to the white Stuart rose in Walter Sickert's secret and personal sketch collection:  ( detail below from his sketch of the Wiley Hanoverian King being confronted by the Act of Succession).
--'s a different girl reading a letter, still by Renoir. ( Sketch only.) Is that a  white Stuart rose in her hat there.
 :-) The sketch has recently surfaced in France and been identified as Renoir's.

Below, 'The letter', by Pierre Auguste Renoir. No specific detail is known about this one, interestingly enough.  c 1880-1900, and the women are unidentified.

Below, detail from 'The letter', showing the women writing a letter on top a page of a newspaper, presumably one containing the 'personal columns'.

Of course the usage of  secret letter delivery services and the personal columns combined for lovers originally emanated from impressionist Paris. The letter that the women are writing in the painting above looks a little like sheet music; or perhaps the composition of a song for sheet music. Renoir has called the painting 'The letter.' ( And nothing else.)

'The letter' may be part of a 'series', notice that in the painting 'At the concert' or 'A box at the theatre' ( two entirely different places are evoked in the two different titles) the female subject is shown receiving what looks like sheet music and a bunch of brilliant flowers.

Beautiful, a series of paintings from Pierre Auguste Renoir with a hidden meaning related to a 'secret letter delivery service'... and a central painting with two separate titles; one, for the public in general,  and another that indicates the 'secret letter delivery service' and the nature of the case.

 The Royal Academy noted that the extensive deep dark red area behind the recipient of the pretty letter/sheet music represents a man who 'has been painted out by Renoir'. It's claimed that the painted out figure, stance and fashionable mustache,  is just visible behind the deep red paint ( the above colours are Renoir's precise colours.)

..below, 'Portrait of Mme Helleu reading a letter' by her husband Paul Cesar Helleu :

Below, 'Mmme Helleu reading a letter' by Singer Sargant.

Quite what Singer Sargant (who regularly frequented Cleveland Street Fitzrovia) is doing recording Mme Helleu reading a letter too, we won't enquire. I'm sure we don't need to.

Below, Helleu depicts a woman, ostensibly Mme Helleu again, and the white Stuart rose, while some sort of sympathetic lady cherub gazes adoringly on.

It's tempting to conclude (very) that Renoir is depicting Marie Jeanette Kelly (Stuart) and Annie Crook of Cleveland Street in his paintings above and that via Edgar Degas ( who is obviously in Jimmy and Walter's entire confidence about the events of Cleveland Street in the 1880s) he had sufficient evidence to do so, even if he did not witness all the events first hand in the same way as his English confreres. There is another 'letter' painting by Renoir:  'Woman with a letter' which seems very suggestible indeed of Marie Jeanette, and it is completely viable that a Stuart 'pauper princess' sitting on a doorstep in Whitechapel should have had vital appeal to the dite Prince of French impressionism.

Whose features are those, in the painting above? Have 'Stuart' features been specifically suggested in the rendition above, is there an element of expressly purposed idiosyncrasy?

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