The Billet-Doux is a headpiece that was created by British illustrator and author Aubrey Beardsley in 1895-96 as a part of the first canto of The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope. The artwork, published by Leonard Smithers in London in 1896, is one of the iconic pieces from Beardsley’s portfolio. It reflects his unique style that emphasized the grotesque, decadent, and erotic. The intricate black ink drawing draws inspiration from Japanese woodcuts.
Aubrey Beardsley was born in 1872 and died at the young age of twenty-five due to tuberculosis. Despite his short life, he became renowned for his illustration work and was considered an important figure in the Aesthetic Movement. His art challenged conventional design principles and incorporated sensuality into Victorian-era art.
The Billet-Doux artwork is taken from Plate 96 to The Later Work of Aubrey Beardsley (John Lane The Bodley Head, London) published in 1901 as a copy of the miniature ‘bijou’ edition of the book that Smithers had first printed on art paper in 1896. It stands out for its exquisite detailing where every single line holds importance in creating an overall impact.