(Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, Quebec, 1878 – Montréal 1953)
Le Vaisseau d’Or
[Ship of Gold]
21.4 x 51.6 x 35 cm
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec collection, 1977.206
Photo: MNBAQ, Idra Labrie
Le Vaisseau d’Or [Ship of Gold] is a Symbolist-inspired sculpted inkwell. It refers to the famous poem written in 1899 by Émile Nelligan (1879-1941) and is engraved with the poem’s French title, Le Vaisseau d’Or. The poet is portrayed sinking into the waves beside a woman who recalls the « goddess Love » in the sonnet, leaning with her on a lyre. Laliberté also produced a bust of Nelligan around the same time. Le Vaisseau d’Or highlights the affinities that united the cultural community in those days, when artistic disciplines – in this case, poetry and sculpture – often echoed each other and intermingled in works that bridged the traditional divides.
The Quebec artist Alfred Laliberté stands among the great Canadian sculptors. Over the course of his career, he produced more than 900 sculptural works, including monuments, statues, busts, objets d’art, medallions and statuettes inspired by Quebec folklore. Although best known for his large commemorative works, he also made more personal pieces indicative of his interest in the art community and his reflections on art. Le Vaisseau d’Or is typical of the style then taking hold in Canada under the influence of French art movements and the British Arts and Crafts movement, which promoted the integration of art into everyday life and of beauty into commonplace objects.
MUSÉE NATIONAL DES BEAUX-ARTS DU QUÉBEC
179 Grande Allée West
Québec (Quebec), G1R 2H1
Le Vaisseau d’Or [Ship of Gold], by Émile Nelligan
Translated from the French by Paul Leroux
There was a mighty ship, of solid gold ‘twas wrought:
Its masts reached to the sky, over oceans unknown;
The goddess Love herself, flesh bare and hair wind-blown,
Stood sculpted at its bow, in sunshine desert hot.
A treach’rous shoal it struck one dark and stormy eve,
Where sailors sirens’ songs unwitting sweetly lull,
And then a shipwreck dread did sink its golden hull
Into the murky depths, grave granting no reprieve!
There was a ship of gold, and through its ghostly side
Such riches it revealed, for which fell pirates vied,
Neurosis, Hate, Disgust, among themselves, those three.
Ah, what remains, now that the storm no longer teems?
What has my heart become, thus set adrift at sea?
Alas, that ship has sunk in an abyss of dreams!