Martin Van Maele

A Biograhpical Sketch

Copyright © 2015 S. A. Perry

A French erotica illustrator and engraver from c.1885 until his death in 1926, Maurice François Alfred Martin (better known under the pseudonym of Martin Van Maele) was born in Boulogne sur Seine, France on 12 Oct 1863. He was an obscure artist for many years but that quickly changed after he started illustrating erotic literature. His pseudonym was a combination of the sur names of his father and mother. His early work was often signed just ‘Martin’. His later work was often signed in a stylized monogram of his initials (MVM). Additionally, he later used the pseudonym ‘Van Troizem’ for some of his portfolios. [See: Signature Styles]

His father was painter/sculptor Louis Alfred Martin, born 15 Jul 1839 in Mauriac, France. His mother, Virginie Mathilde Jeanne Van Maele, was from Bruges, Belgium, born there on 7 Jan 1841. Louis and Virginie married in Paris on 14 Jun 1860. In addition to Maurice, they had another son, Fernand Isidore Peter Huges, born 26 Mar 1862 but who died at the age of four on 8 Dec 1866. The family lived in Boulogne sur Seine until 1876 when they moved to 39 Raynouard St. in Paris. In 1886, they moved to Genève, Switzerland where he took a professorship at the Ecole des Arts Industriels. He died in Genève on 22 Apr 1903. Virginie died 15 Apr 1927 in Vineuil-Saint-Firmin (0ise), France. (Note: Virginie’s nephew, Georges Pierre Genilloud, son of her sister Sylvianne Maximilienne Van Maele, married Dolorès Urrabieta Vierge who was the sister of illustrator Daniel Vierge (1851-1904))

Maurice married Marie Françoise Genet 19 Feb 1889 in Paris, France. Marie was born 17 Jul 1861 in Virieu-le-Grand (Ain), France to Francois Genet and Marie Louise Pilloux. As far as I can determine, no child was born to Maurice and Marie. During their marriage they lived at various addresses in Paris before moving in 1904 to a large home in Varennes-Jarcy. There, they were joined by his grandmother, Élise Leygonie Martin.

At the age of 19, the first known public record of Maurice’s artistic activity was an exhibit at the 1882 “Salon de la Societe des Artistes François”: three works by his father: a woodcut after a drawing by Daniel Vierge, the second after one of his own drawings, and the third, a workshop engraving after a drawing by Maurice Martin.

Maurice’s first known published work appeared in the 1885 books Histoires d’Hiver and Sur mer et sur terre. Early in his career he worked as an illustrator for various periodicals: Magasin Pittoresque, Revue Illustre, Monde Illustre, Petit Francais Illustre and Vie Parisienne. The illustrations ranged from simple line drawings to highly detailed drawings but all were decidedly not erotic or even risqué. His risqué work did not appear until the late 1890s. In addition to his drawings he also authored (and illustrated) at least three known articles in Le Magasin Pittoresque.

In September of 1893, Van Maele’s first known risqué drawing appeared in a two-page spread of the magazine La Vie Parisienne. His first known (semi) nude woman is found in Dix Contes d’Edgar Poe, c.1897. About four years later, in 1901, he was discovered by publisher Charles Carrington who hired him to illustrate Thais and Flagellation des Femmes en Allemagne...two of the many flagellation novels Van Maele would come to illustrate. Their partnership lasted until Carrington was exiled from France in 1907. He continued with publishers Roberts et Dardaillon and Jules Chevrel until about 1920, when he primarily began illustrating works issued by publisher Jean Fort.

It was Jean Fort's Dialogues de Pietro Aretino that Van Maele was in the process of illustrating when he suddenly fell ill. He died on 5 Sep 1926 and is buried at Varennes-Jarcy outside of Paris, France. His death certificate was signed by his brother-in-law, Philibert Genet.

Excerpt from the preface of Dialogues de Pietro Aretino:

Les eaux-fortes et les dessins de Martin Van Maele qui illustrent cette nouvelle édition des Ragionamenti, sont les dernières œuvres de l’artiste. Après avoir produit tant de chefs d’oeuvre, entre lesquels nous citerons les plus célèbres, comme les illustrations des « Fleurs du mal », des « Paradis artificiels », de la « Religieuse », Martin Van Maele était arrivé à la pleine maturité de son talent lorsque la mort brutale est venue interrompre son effort. La disparition de ce probe et grand artiste, dont on pouvait attendre encore tant de fruits, a été vivement ressentie par tous ceux qui ont le culte du beau.

Martin Van Maele est mort le crayon à la main, pour ainsi dire, et il avait dû laisser inachevée l’illustration du présent ouvrage: les deux frontispices, en effet, étaient encore à faire. Nous avons eu la bonne fortune de pouvoir les faire exécuter par un jeune dessinateur graveur dont il faut retenir le nom, Viset, car il comptera très rapidement parmi les artistes dont les œuvres seront recherchées des bibliophiles et des amateurs de beaux livres illustrés.

English translation:

[ The etchings and drawings by Martin Van Maele that illustrate this new edition of Ragionamenti are the artist's last works. After having produced so many masterpieces, among which we will cite the most famous, such as the illustrations of the "Flowers of Evil", the "Artificial Paradises", the "Nun", Martin Van Maele had reached the full maturity of his talent when sudden death came to interrupt his effort. The disappearance of this upright and great artist, from whom so many fruits could still be expected, was deeply felt by all those who have a cult of beauty.

Martin Van Maele died pencil in hand, so to speak, and he had to leave the illustration of this work unfinished: the two frontispieces, in fact, were still to be done. We had the good fortune to be able to have them executed by a young draftsman-engraver whose name, Viset, should be remembered, because he will very quickly be among the artists whose works will be sought after by bibliophiles and lovers of fine illustrated books. ]

Vital Records:

• Birth Record      • Marriage Record      • Death Record      • Headstone     


• Archives de Paris; Paris, France; Etat Civil 1792-1902 (

• Catalogue Illustre de la Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts, 1901. pg 44 (

• Catalogue Illustre de la Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts, 1902. pg 52 (

• Catalogue Illustre de la Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts, 1903. pg 54 (

• Commission municipale du vieux Paris: Procès-verbaux, 1899. pp. 6-7 (Google Books)

• Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, gravure et lithographie, 1882. pp. 155, 501 (

• Listes électorales de Paris et ses environs, 1891 (