Day Two - Cimetière Montparnasse: Part Two

The Remarkable Tomb of Julio Ruelas

The Cimetière is divided into two walled sections, split by Rue Emile Richard. I entered the east section via the south gate at the very far end from my hotel. I had only missed Emile Durkheim's tomb at the exact opposite end of the west section after doing most of the writers, artists, philosophers and chess players... but if I exited by Gates 2 and 3 at the bottom end of this section I could cross over and pick up Durkheim without too much fuss. It was practically on my away back, just a little past the main entrance, only a small redundant loop. The Main Entrance was very near Edgar Quinet intersection where I planned to have a late lunch at one of the open-air cafés.

I had trouble finding Guy Du Maupassant, as did some other people. A few corridors of tombs away, a man bent forward to speak to a woman who was tending a grave and I heard him say the writer's name. She looked up furiously and barked a gruff reply. Obviously she didn't work here. He apologised and moved on, wandering, still lost.

I found the grave eventually, had only walked past it once. Unlike most of the other graves where the name is engraved on the top-stone of the grave, Du Maupassant's in carved into the lintel of a frail-seeming moderately elaborate concrete arch above the head-stone. I called over to that man who was wandering close to me but still having no luck. "Here it is", I called. He thanked me in French.

Similar trouble finding Dreyfus. The map showed it to be here, past this other tomb, but it wasn't. Not to scale obviously. Again I should have noticed all the small stones placed on top by visitors.

Down past a few more spooky statues to the weird tomb of Charles Pigeon, inventor of (the flying rat?) god knows what. The statue has him lying in bed, fully clothed, next to his ?dead wife, with a pen and notebook, ready to take notes. What The Fuck, Chuck? Someone has placed red-rose between them.

Gates 2 and 3 are locked. Shit. I have to walk all the way back up to the south gate. There is a wide path along the wall and so I cut some distance by taking this short-cut. As I trudge slowly along the path into Section 26 a bright gleam of white marble catches my eye.


Another statue, but almost hidden. I cross over to see it is a realistic statue of a reclining woman, sleeping, naked, half-facing down, draped over a rock or something. It has an exceptionally dramatic quality, gothic and romantic. Her haunches are smooth and accurately realistic. One nipple is in profile. Her right arm draped over the rock, holding a bunch of simple flowers near the gentle cascade of her tresses and her hanging, sleeping face. It is very sexy statue. I take a photo. This is not in the guide-book.


The granite headstone is to the side of the tomb, sheltering the woman. Its coarse conglomerate nature makes it impossible to read the name of the entombed. I lean close and see that a name is indeed chiseled deeply, with maybe some artistic scratchings above, but the shadows which would highlight the edges of the name are hidden in the complex stones of the granite. Who is this? Are they famous, or should I say, *were* they famous? If not, why the elaborate sculpture? If so, why are they not in the guidebook?

At the foot of the grave are two flowerpots and between them is a clear plastic document folder. I pull it up to examine it more closely. I note that the top of the document folder is facing down so rain cannot get in. There are orange-red sheets of photocopy paper inside. I extract then and see a series of etchings, weird, ornate, dramatic, sexy, very fin-de-siecle style. I am astounded, fascinated. These are fascinating, enticing, bewitching. Flute playing satyrs, smirking devils, captives, lost souls. One haunting image shows a recumbent naked woman, tied down by some elastic bonds, a snake poised to strike between her legs. Below her in large letter are the words Revista Moderna. Obviously a magazine title or something. The last page has a man's face and a name.

image image

Julio Ruelas.

I photograph all these pages and place them back in the folder the way I found them, opening down.

So my task for today is give you some information about this man.

There is no Wikipedia entry for Ruelas, who was a Mexican 'bohemian' lithographer and artist, but there are several other sources of information on the web and apart from a brief paragraph on mostly in Spanish, so I am trusting my nonexistent Spanish translation skills (a bit of French, a bit of Latin, a bit of Italian and a fair bit of the Google Translate This Page function) for most of the following information. It may seem uncoordinated, but it is late and I am... disturbed by the subject matter. Something has crept in to my mind...

Ruelas died in Paris on 16 September, 1907 of tuberculosis (the same age, 36, as Cyrano De Bergerac) and the sculptor Arnulfo Domínguez Bello, later head of the National Institute of Fine Arts (in Mexico City?), was commissioned to create this moving piece for his grave. A 99 year lease on the grave lot was purchased by a patron and friend Jesus Luján, and Ruelas was buried the next day, no fussing around there...

It is almost 100 years ago, merely a fortnight short as I write this, that Ruelas died. Last year ago as the terms of the lot in Cimetière Montparnasse were coming up, it seemed that the grave was going to be destroyed by the Paris bureaucracy, so a society was formed, the 'Friends Of Julio Ruelas' (I am not making this up - no relation to the FOC - 'Friends of Carlotta' in my favourite Steve Martin movie) to organise a campaign that would raise awareness and therefore funds to support upkeep of the grave. Their website shows a photo of the threatening signage. This sign was absent when I visited yesterday, so I can only assume that their campaign was successful. There might be information on that on the website, which I will try to decipher before I crash tonight. I also note that the statue has been significantly cleaned up compared to their photographs, though I saw some perforations and cracks yesterday that indicate maybe that the original marble was not of the highest quality.

It seems Ruelas was a well-loved rebel, if perhaps hard to love. A black-hearted, passionate man who lived in Death and with Death yet kissed Life full on the mouth, according to one poem about him. He died in bloody agony after a tormented existence, one comment reads. "Our generation was a generation of the sad," said Dafoo, his magazine editor. Reulas was strange and intense, taciturn, solitary, ironic, prototypically black-biled... Sounds like a great guy to party with.

I cannot think. Except of her.

After a period of study in Germany in the 1880's and 90's, Ruelas went back home, providing illustrations for poems and some other etchings to literary magazines in Mexico such as Moderna Revista, gaining a solid symbolist reputation. With support from some well-known Mexican patrons, he managed to obtain a small stipend to survive on, and to further his studies he moved to Paris in 1904. In the last three years of life, burdened by his illness, he produced only nine, though fine, lithographs, symbolic spooky stuff. You can see there here. Included on that page is his remarkable painting of a nude woman in a hat, with a whip, watching a pig with a monkey on its back run around a path... Weird.

He choked to death due to TB of the throat in the presence of some friends in Blvd Saint Michel.

I had never heard of him until yesterday. Yet another reason to learn Spanish.


The statue though, and that illustration of the bound woman, they haunt me. She lies next to me in my dreams. I lie on the bed, try to get my arm to fall the way hers does...

I feel her lips hard and cold against mine, I stroke her impassive thighs over those pallid ivory hips, up over her firm abdomen till I gently stimulate the stiff nipple, I hear her sigh and sink deeper into the stone...


I wake frantic, tumescent, the curve of the statue's perfect haunches stimulating me, the peek of nipple, the half-opened mouth, a sigh of sadness and presumed consent, or at least a failure to refute. I wonder who she is, can I ever get to meet that century old perfectly formed model? Is she as perfect now as she was then? I see her draped body, half consumed by the marble base into which she sinks as if resigned to her fate, a resorption, like death, and I desire it, I desire her like nothign before. I wonder where her left arm is, under her hair? She must be perfect. Her curving spine, the lumpy bones of her lower neck, the elevated scapula, so real, so pale, so solid and firm. I am falling in love with the dream of her perfection.

For weeks, desperate, I look for her reincarnation on the street. I grow weary, lost, unshaved. I look for her noble roman nose in the street cafes. I seek those long legs and that cold pert arse under tight jeans. Kicked out of my hotel I become homeless, asking for money from strangers as I hold a beer-can. No-one graces me. Golden apples, silver apples. She has gone long ago and I yearn for her. I call out her name, though I don't even know it... Till time and time are done, I will seek her...


All I see instead are about a million girls who are the spitting images of the vivacious young babe in "Swimming Pool"... Move over Thai girls, these French babes are splendid. I am falling in love a hundred times a day. Do people notice that I stop walking to watch a woman walk past? Are they aware that my eyes are following as they walk around the corner, as they cross the street, push their prams, sit with friends and talk animatedly?

Le Paradoxe du Choix

They are all so lovely.

Paris... Brilliant!


I knew I should have waited to bring a girl-friend, I should have come to Paris with someone special. Paris without sex is unbelievably frustrating.



Posted by: expat@large on Sep 03, 07 | 9:36 am | Profile


Your last line is exactly how I felt when I was there. Now I can't wait to go back, but waiting till I have the right person to go with me. As Joni Mitchell wrote/sang:

The dance halls and cafes
Feel so wild you could break somebody's heart
Just doing the latest dance craze
Gail and Louise
In those push-up brassieres
Tight dresses and rhinestone rings
Drinking up the bands beers
Young love was kissing under bridges
Kissing in cars, kissing in cafes
And we were walking down Main Street
Kisses like bright flags hung on holidays

In France they kiss on Main Street
Amour, mama, not cheap display
And we were rolling, rolling, rock n rolling

Posted by: spike on Sep 03, 07 | 10:35 am

Wow, Spike, I am still editing this! You might have missed some of my late inclusions jokes, extra pictures or least fewer typos...

But yes, I had been putting off this trip for 20 years waiting for the right woman: a mix of Simone de Beaver and... the woman in the statue... So I just fucking well gave up and got on the plane...

Posted by: expat@large on Sep 03, 07 | 10:43 am

*sigh* I'm envious. I'll have to wait till next summer. I'll kiss the grave of Oscar Wilde, like all the women do. Unfortunately I cannot say I look forward to the men, but the pastries now...


Posted by: isabella on Sep 03, 07 | 11:58 am

I knew I should have waited to bring a girl-friend, I should have come to Paris with someone special. Paris without sex is unbelievably frustrating.

Which is the exact reason I refuse to return to what is one of my favourite cities.

Posted by: Indiana on Sep 03, 07 | 12:02 pm

And no-one cares, or cares to comment that I am having sex with a statue?

Mmm, thinking, if she was a model, maybe she's in some other paintings or sculptures? Musee d'Orsay today.

Posted by: expat@large on Sep 03, 07 | 7:12 pm

i fall in love with me again when i'm alone in paris. your trip sounds so perfect, sugar! i am so very excited and happy for to your newest affair, my only comment would be/is....are you reveling in the experience?

i hope you stop at angelina (226, rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement) for tea or (even if it's hot outside) a cup of the delicious hot choclate!

Posted by: savannah on Sep 03, 07 | 9:55 pm

Or maybe I'll rest the feet today, stay in Montparnasse, do some washing in Le Lav next door...

Maybe I'll stroll up to Le Closerie des Lilas for a chocolate, where 'The Sun Also Rises' was written and set. Had dinner last night in La Cupoule.

Posted by: expat@large on Sep 03, 07 | 10:30 pm

Very much appreciate your efforts E@L ... gourmet lunches, cute chicks, death what more could one want? And that statue of the relining woman is remarkable. Un tour de force.

Posted by: Dick on Sep 04, 07 | 2:00 am

Dick: those first few croque monsiers were hardly gourmet! But there ARE cute chicks everywhere, - it's the animation on their faces I am amazed at - no wonder the first voyagers to Asia spoke of the inscrutable Chinese. You'd love to play poker (the card game!) with a French girl...

Thought (hoped) you'd like the Ruelas section...

Posted by: expat@large on Sep 04, 07 | 7:02 am

You're in Paris, and you're falling in love with a woman of rock, lying on a bed of stone? (I admit, the chiselled figure is 'moving', graceful, sensuous, dramatic and passionate - but you can't get anything colder than marble!) Freud's analysis would be interesting...

Mon cher Phillipe, you deserve a real, live woman who can reciprocate your love, warmth and affection. Search, and keep searching - don't give up, because you deserve happiness! The loneliness of the long-distance runner and the empty feeling after a one-night stand can only add to one's sense of desolation. Finding true love involves some risks, and basically eventually giving someone a chance, in spite of their imperfections. (I know, because I've been there!)

Perhaps the Simon & Garfunkel song ('70s?) could be - whilst a little sad, relevant?

A winters day
In a deep and dark december;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Ive built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Dont talk of love,
But Ive heard the words before;
Its sleeping in my memory.
I wont disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Posted by: Sister on Sep 04, 07 | 9:49 pm

There is still much more about Julio Ruelas. The way in which he died is uncertain for instance. I am very glad that you found that statue. It has been said (by other visitors...) that it is the most impressive and beatiful grave.

1. Yes, it is Mexico City
2. Yes, it is an excellent idea aprender español

We saved the tomb temporary but they cementery is asking for full maintenance so we are collecting funds to save it. Otherwise, Julio Ruelas rests and the magnificent statue of the woman will be destroyed.

The best source for information about it is the Friends of Julio Ruelas society, they have an email address there.

Posted by: egalois on Sep 19, 07 | 6:57 am


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