La muse libertine

François Villon
1431 to 1464
Albert Dubout
1906 to 1978
Éditions du Valois

As a young, burgeoning draftsman Albert Dubout declared in an interview that he had great difficulty picturing just two characters. He preferred to draw five, ten or a hundred, or even a thousand, if he would be able to fit them all in. Whoever comes across Dubout's work will immediately see how strongly this statement characterises his work. In most drawings the characters tumble all over each other in large, disorganised crowds that mesmerise the viewer. In his colourful, cartoonish images, every square centimetre offered the viewer something different.

Farcical situations

The characters drawn by the artist from Marseille are caricatures. They are usually only half-dressed, and are pictured in farcical situations. An oft-repeated theme in his work is the reversal of roles: wives lording it over their husbands, for instance. They are usually fat, dominant women who manage to suppress the men by force of their sheer mass alone. The presentations by Dubout are always animated and full of movement; these ingredients were also featured in comic books and animated films, which were new at the time. But Dubout never became a French version of Walt Disney. He did however design numerous movie posters for his friend Marcel Pagnol.

Dubout's drawing career

Dubout started his career in the 1920s by doing magazine illustrations. The illustrated weekly was experiencing a period of rapid growth, and an increasing number of magazines, like Marianne, considered drawings autonomous works of art rather than mere embellishment. This policy benefited artists like Dubout, whose illustrations were immediately popular, and which remained so. His style hardly changed in his drawing career of fifty years. His audience however did change. Before the Second World War he had a large audience that read magazines like Le rire as a form of entertainment. After the war, his readership mostly consisted of sophisticated fans who collected Dubout’s books out of a sense of nostalgia.


Dubout illustrated approximately sixty books, most of which were classics, such as the works of François Villon. The texts served mostly as a source of inspiration, as the drawings tell their own story. Such is also the case in La muse libertine, an anthology of light erotic poetry from the fifteenth up to the eighteenth century, for which Dubout produced forty humorous and slightly vulgar illustrations full of adulterous damsels and lustful servants. Most illustrations are not as overpopulated as most other Dubout illustrations, but they are certainly not lacking in liveliness.

Bibliographical description:

Description: La muse libertine : florilège des poëtes satyriques / avec 40 aquarelles orig. de Dubout. - [Paris] : Éditions du Valois, 1957. - 225 p. : ill. ; 27 cm
Printer: Union; Déchaux; Fernand Mourlot (Paris)
Edition: 4569 copies
This copy: Number 626 of 4000 on papier vélin spécial de Docelles
Bibliographie: Bénézit 4-771
Shelf-mark: Koopm A 142


  • Michel Melot, Dubout. Paris, Trinckvel, 1979

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Illustration by Dubout (p. 11)
Illustration by Dubout (p. 11)

Illustration by Dubout (p. 11)

Illustration by Dubout (p. 51)
Illustration by Dubout (p. 51)

Illustration by Dubout (p. 51)

Illustration by Dubout (p. 177
Illustration by Dubout (p.177)

Illustration by Dubout (p.177)