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"Mlle. Sylvie Eustache, Chanteuse et Ventriloque"

Edgar Dragass

The Mumblestoats Museum is proud to announce the acquisition of our first Dragass canvas, a welcome and long overdue complement to our lost-bronze wax casting, which has pride of place in the Gallery of the Unidentifiable wing and is assumed by many to be the work of the artist.

It was unusual for Edgar Dragass to paint a decently-clothed adult. It was public knowledge that he had attended the Downtown Paris School of the Art simply as a cover for hanging around ballet academies and rehearsal halls ogling partially clothed underaged dancers, a predilection which saw him dragged into court by the vice squad on more than one occasion.

In this case it appears that the artist was sincerely impressed with the talents of the café performer seen in this work. Mlle. Eustache was not only a capable singer, but had perfected the new skill of ventriloquism she had learned from her mother, a spiritualist and medium who used it to great effect in her séances, which were the talk of Paris. The high point of her performance was an extraordinary duet sung with her bawdily-named hand-puppet, Petcom. It was said in the popular press that the act was so cleverly done that members of the audience would frequently search the stage and her props for a hidden phonograph before realizing that sound recording hadn’t been invented yet, which sent them back to their seats in a highly embarrassed state, to the hoots and jeers of the other patrons.

It was at one of Mlle. Eustache’s performances that Dragass met the female impersonator Étienne Évêque, who went by the stage name of Dolly Dalrymple. Unaware of the subterfuge, Dragass, after a long engagement, married “Dolly” in 1877. It was not until 1884 that he became aware of the deceit, at which point he immediately divorced “her” and sued for custody of the children. A broken man, he took to drink, but as his delicate constitution would only tolerate mineral water, he clung to life until 1917, when he died of hydrostatic lock after a three-day Evian bender in Montmartre.

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