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Prints and Authors in the Time of Manet

Charles Meryon
French, 1821–1868

The Morgue (La morgue)

Etching, 1854
Museum purchase, 1930.13

Of this print, Philippe Burty, Meryon’s friend and his first cataloguer, wrote in 1863:
…this piece is perhaps the most remarkable of all [Meryon’s] works. It would be impossible to make a more moving picture of a group of houses, which, in fact, have nothing about them to produce any emotion of impact on the soul. This superimposition of roofs, this medley of colliding angles, this blinding light which renders in striking contrasts the masses of shadow, this monument which, by means of the artist’s needle, resembles an antique tomb, combine to create an enigma, with the sinister explanation being provided by the crowds of people.
The crowds hanging over the parapet of the quay look upon the drama which unfolds on the river bank: a corpse has just been dragged from the Seine; a girl weeps; a distraught woman falls backwards, choked by despair; the gendarme instructs the boatmen to carry this derelict of misery or debauchery to the Morgue.