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Prison of the Iron Mask
6 1/4 x 8 1/2 in (15.9 x 21.6 cm)
Swann Galleries - New York
Courtesy of Swann Galleries (Auction, Feb 7, 2008, #2135, Lot 29)
With the title and date, in ink, and NÞgre's name in the printed decorative border on mount recto.
From the Bert Hartkamp Collection, Amsterdam; to the present owner in 2003.
This photograph depicts the prison where the notorious man with the iron mask was incarcerated. The legends surrounding this mysterious prisoner, including Alexander Dumas''s classic novel, continue to this day in films, poetry, television programs, and theatrical works.
In the 19th century, however, Parisians believed that the masked prisoner was actually the twin brother of King Louis XIV, imprisoned because he was seen as a threat to the throne. His mask was maintained under penalty of death to prevent anyone from knowing his true identity. The question of who his patrimony was also greatly debated, with the possibilities including the Duke of Buckingham, a monk called Fiacre, Louis XIII, and Cardinal Mazarin. Most believed his mother was Queen Anne of Austria, the wife of Louis XIII.
Colorful stories associated with the figure were perpetuated by writers no less than Voltaire, who wrote that the masked man had tried to communicate his true identity to the outside world by writing on a silver plate and throwing it from his prison window to the river running beside the Bastille. Popular myth perpetuated the notion he wore an iron helmut-like mask with a moveable, hinged jaw. Later research revealed that, in fact, the mask was made of black velvet.