The Arlesienne: The Artist’s Muse

Embodying the Provencal woman in all her splendor, the Arlesienne has inspired, and continues to inspire today, many artists, all seduced by her grace, elegance and mysterious beauty.
By Justine Fiordelli

Painters, poets, designers, composers, writers – from Alphonse Daudet to Christian Lacroix and not forgetting Frédéric Mistral, Georges Bizet and Vincent Van Gogh – have fallen in love with the Arlesienne, this woman from the south, free and luminous, inseparable from the city of Arles. Whether for her costume, her grace, elegance or mystery, many artists take immense pleasure in depicting her from their own imagination.

In 1869, Alphonse Daudet honored the Arlesienne in a short story extracted from his book “Letters from my Windmill,” then decided three years later to write a play in three acts with music by Georges Bizet. Chimerical and elusive, the mythical character of the Arlesienne was also represented by Leo Lelée, a painter and illustrator from Provence who enjoyed drawing her dancing and wearing her traditional costume. More recently, after inspiring him for his haute couture collections, fashion and costume designer Christian Lacroix has developed a large exhibition in tribute to the figure of the Arlesienne on the occasion of the Rencontres d’Arles 2014 photography festival. One thing is certain; the myth of the Arlesienne is here to stay!

The Arlesienne: The Artist’s Muse
The Arlesienne: The Artist’s Muse
The traditional costume
Fotolia

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