Leonor Fini’s Surrealist Object and Other Marvelous Precipitates of Desire

"Objet trouvé par Leonor Fini. Couverture dun livre ayant séjourné dans la mer.” Like all object labels, this label tells a story. The first sentence is true. The second, a seductive fiction.

The artist Leonor Fini did find this object, but not on a beach. Though seemingly encrusted with mud and marine matter, it has never spent time in a sea. Instead, it is a German-language novelty item created by Carl Maria Seyppel circa 1890, entitled Christoph Columbus Logbuch. An antique discarded object by the time it came into Fini’s hands, Seyppel originally had made the book to look as if it were water-damaged. Though the caption encourages us to imagine Fini having the tides deposit it at her feet, the real moment of encounter would have been far more quotidian: Fini came across it as at a flea market or bookstore.