The poetry collection 'Les fleurs du mal' first appeared in 1857 and was followed by a new edition which included the ‘Tableaux parisiens’ in 1861. The work’s enthusiastic reception by a small group of readers, mainly composed of other writers and artists, was not sufficient to prevent the authorities from persecuting both Baudelaire and his publisher.
The oxymoron suggested by the title of the poetry collection is constructed through a play of opposites that Baudelaire explores, revealing the grandeur and decadence inherent in human nature itself. It is precisely the right measure of this contradiction that Carlos Schwabe examines in his illustrations for the 1900 edition, employing a symbolist grammar enlivened by a complex allegorical vocabulary. Schwabe’s collaboration with Meunier is testimony to their mutual admiration, which was confirmed by other joint works and is conveyed here in a strongly visual expression of artistic complicity.