About this artwork

This mesmerising painting was probably modelled by the artist Marie-Charlotte Barbaroux, Martin’s wife. It was inspired by a short story, Berenice, by the American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). First published in 1835, this story was translated into French by the poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867).

In Poe’s gruesome tale, Egaeus, the narrator, falls in love with his beautiful cousin Berenice. She suffers from a mysterious debilitating illness, causing her to fall into a trance-like state. As Berenice’s health deteriorates, Egaeus develops intense obsessions, focusing latterly on her teeth. The girl eventually dies and Egaeus is grief-stricken. He visits her grave, as if in a dream, and later discovers her extracted teeth in a box beside him. Martin seems to have been inspired by this passage from Berenice

‘The forehead was high, and very pale … and the once jet-black hair fell partially over it, and overshadowed the hollow temples with innumerable ringlets, now of a vivid yellow, and jarring discordantly … with the reigning melancholy of her countenance.’

From the 1890s Martin adopted the neo-impressionist technique, applying small dots of paint to the canvas, which brought him huge commercial success.

Published April 2022

  • artist:
    Henri Martin (1860 - 1943) French
  • title:
  • date created:
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • measurements:
    55.00 x 46.00 cm; Framed: 85.80 x 77.00 x 12.50 cm / 16.00 kg
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Purchased with assistance from the Heinz Fund and Art Fund, 2021
  • accession number:
    NG 2890
  • gallery:
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Henri Martin

Henri Martin