Gaspard of the Night: Fantasies in the Manner of Rembrandt and Callot


Louis-Jacques Napoléon Bertrand (also known by the more poetic pen name of Aloysius) is the author of only one book, Gaspard de la Nuit (Gaspard of the night). Born in 1807, he moved to Paris in 1833 and became an acquaintance of authors Victor Hugo and Charles Nodier. Poor and very ill, Bertrand lived in and out of hospitals from 1838 until his death from tuberculosis in 1841. His friend David d’Angers was the only person to accompany his casket to his final resting place. Bertrand reworked and refined his Gaspard de la Nuit until his last breath. Published in November 1842, with a preface by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, the collection of prose poems had a large influence on later generations. Charles Baudelaire declared Aloysius Bertrand the inventor of prose poetry, and Lautréamont (pseudonym of Isidore Lucien Ducasse), Maurice Maeterlinck, Stéphane Mallarmé (who wrote that he was “by his condensed and precious style, one of our brothers”), as well as André Breton and Paul Éluard followed in his footsteps. Gaspard de la Nuit was a highly original work. Composed of six thematic “books,” it breathes an atmosphere that is both medieval and fantastic, with an ironic and even grotesque flavor. The whole work finds structure in an unusual, condensed and sharp style, a far cry from the exuberance of romanticism. Most important is the image, the chiaroscuro, in the style of Rembrandt and Callot, the two antithetical faces of art: calm and philosophical or dangerous and bohemian. The work suggests one object echoing another as in a hall of mirrors: C'est Ondine qui frôle de ces gouttes d'eau les losanges sonores de ta fenêtre illuminée par les mornes rayons de la lune (It is Ondine who brushes drops of water on the resonant panes of your windows lit by the gloomy rays of the moon).

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

V. Pavie, Angers, France


Title in Original Language

Gaspard de la nuit : fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot


Type of Item

Physical Description

324 pages ; 24 centimeters

Last updated: April 23, 2015