Urgent Museum Notice

The Adventuress

Close up of The Adventuress

Visual novel, open to a black and white print depicting a man with his back to the viewer, wearing a hat and coat with tails, carrying a woman in his arms, her arm draped around his neck and legs hanging loosely. The opposite page reads,

Audrey Niffenegger, The Adventuress, 1983-1985; Aquatint and etching on Japanese paper, hand-marbled endpapers, Utrasuede binding, 9 1/2 x 11 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase: United States Department of Education Fund; © Audrey Niffenegger

The Adventuress
Audrey Niffenegger

Niffenegger conceived, printed, and handbound The Adventuress, her first visual novel, when she was a 21-year-old student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The most surreal of Niffenegger’s visual novels, The Adventuress tells a story of impossible love, loss, betrayal, and death.

This tale of a nameless adventuress, who was created by an alchemist, is typical of Niffenegger’s works in its inclusion a few details related to the artist’s personal life—she owns cats and has book-filled rooms, both of which are featured prominently in the imagery.

This dreamlike narrative follows the adventuress as she is kidnapped and forced to marry an old man; escapes and transforms herself temporarily into a giant moth; has a love affair with Napoleon Bonaparte; and gives birth to a cat, whom she treats as a beloved child. She eventually dies, heartbroken, after a betrayal by the doomed emperor.

As in many of Niffenegger’s tales, the dead and the living coexist and interact with all the joy, despair, and complexity that characterize human relationships.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Audrey Niffenegger
  • Title

    The Adventuress
  • Date

    1983–85
  • Medium

    Aquatint and etching on Japanese paper, Hand-marbled end papers, Ultrasuede binding
  • Dimensions

    11 x 9 1/2 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of United States Department of Education
  • Photo Credit

    © Audrey Niffenegger
  • On Display

    No