These leporellos, also known as a concertina book are part of a series of four illustrative books, taking inspiration from two poems written by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. The poems were sent to ‘Monsieur Picasso, Artist’ on a plain blue postcard, postmarked 2 November 1905. ‘The Saltimbanque’ and ‘Performance’ became two of the most popular French poems of the twentieth century. These handmade books are part of my ‘circus period’.
In the plain with its quiet gardens,
Where the travelling players move along,
Past the doors of gray inns
And through the villages without the churches,
The youngest children lead the way,
And the other, dreaming, follow on.
Every fruit tree accepts its fate
When they wave to it from afar.
They have heavy weights, round or square,
Drums and gilded hoops.
The bear and the monkey, well-trained animals,
Beg for coins, as they pass by.
A little saltimbanque uses his hand
In place of the handkerchief he doesn’t own.
And the woman breast-feeds
With her River Lethe milk of forgetting
A newborn baby, beside the sad dwarf
And Harlequin Trismegistus.
With the forest as a backdrop,
On the grass where the day is fading,
The harlequin girl has shed her clothes
And mirrors her figure in the pool.
On the trestle stage, the pale harlequin
First bows to the audience
Of sorcerers from Bohemia,
With witches and wizards.
Once he has unhooked a star,
He waves it at arm's length,
While with his feet, a hanged man
Knocks three times, to raise the curtain.
English translation by A. S. Kline