A shoulder-length portrait of a man occupies the bottom half of the image. The upper portion of the image is untouched. The man's head is silhouetted against a very dark background created by dense marks and hatching that prints very dark. The man looks away from the viewer to the left; behind his head is a partially drawn crow or raven. The man has short hair, moustache and beard.
Mallarmé was a friend to many of the Impressionist painters in the late 1800s, including Whistler, Redon, Manet, Degas, Monet, and Renoir. For both Gauguin and Mallarmé the role of imagination was paramount, and Gauguin’s image of the poet contrasts sharply with that of Whistler’s. Just as with Whistler’s portrait, Gauguin’s also shows the figure emerging from a shaded background although the figure’s placement within the image is quite different. Gauguin brings Mallarmé closer to the viewer than Whistler’s more psychologically distant rendering. Mallarmé translated Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven, into French and a raven occupies the space just behind the French poet’s head.
This is Gauguin’s only attempt at etching, although he worked extensively in woodcut, and was executed shortly before he left for Polynesia. Very few impressions were taken of this image during Gauguin’s lifetime; this impression, although taken posthumously, is among the limited number taken from the plate.
Sketch #1 noted: Capital to column of Arcade under stone facade Sketch #2 titled: Moulded Frame Around Court Windows Sketch #4 noted: Cap to the Windows ; also: note ornament varies to the different windows. Also the little corbel under Label mould. To right of sketch #4 is a cross-section noted: Label mould To left of #4 of a cross-section noted: Stone Staircase rail cut into central pier