This bust is the portrait of a demi-mondaine with a ruff around her neck and her hair piled up in a chignon adorned with a ribbon and pearls. Wearing a striking expression, she bends her head slightly to the left.
Executed in painted wax and cardboard by Jean-Désiré Ringel d’Illzach in 1877, Perversity or Demi-Monde testifies to the artist’s preparatory work for a life-size sculpture, made entirely of polychrome wax, that was presented and destroyed at the Salon of 1879. The subject and hyperrealism of the work – a contemporary nude representing a courtesan – caused a scandal.
Perversity or Demi-Monde has an important place in the work of Ringel d’Illzach, who produced several versions of it. It also illustrates the artistic experimentation of this multifaceted creator who worked with wax, ceramic, glass, marble and bronze, part-way between the fine and the decorative arts.