Two French booksellers have discovered the only clear image of the 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud as an adult, after stumbling across it at a flea market.
Until now the author of Le Bateau Ivre and Illuminations has been best remembered as an angelic adolescent as all other portraits of him were blurred or silhouettes.
But Jacques Desse and Alban Causse made their extraordinary find when they came across a black and white photo taken circa 1880 among postcards and bric-a-brac in a market "somewhere in France".
The photo showed a group of mustachioed bourgeois Frenchmen and one woman in white and was signed Hotel de l'Univers on the back. Rimbaud enthusiasts would know this was the hotel in Aden, Abyssinia, where Rimbaud spent the last years of his life before dying of cancer aged 37.
The self-proclaimed literary "bounty hunters" were convinced the man staring defiantly at the camera was the flamboyant and libertine poet himself.
They showed the photo, for which they paid a "reasonable sum", to a leading Rimbaud expert who was putting together a book of previously unseen posthumous letters from the poet's family and entourage. Jean-Jacques Lefrère confirmed the photo was indeed of Rimbaud, along with his wife and friends.
It is exhibited at the Paris Old books fair in the Grand Palais, which opened yesterday.
Rimbaud, born in 1854, wrote all his most famous poems from his teens until the age of 21, and was described by Victor Hugo as "an infant Shakespeare".
As a youth, he had an affair with Paul Verlaine, another great French poet and a married man, who tried to shoot him during a dispute.
Rimbaud left Europe for Abyssinia where he became an arms and gold trader.
He died in Marseille in 1891.