Archive for the ‘l’Artiste Inconnu’ Category

Adolf Frey-Moock was born in Switzerland (in Jona, not Jena as often recorded) where he was apprenticed to learn the trade of decorative fresco painting in churches. After several months as a touring artisan (during which he painted the Schöne Brunnen in Nuremberg), he entered the Academy in Munich where he studied with Wilhelm Diez. Although he was one of the most loyal followers of Franz von Stuck, he was never a student of his. Instead, in 1909, he became a studio assistant of the hugely successful, recently ennobled master. In the 1930’s Frey-Moock lived in Nördlingen, then again in Munich, and eventually he returned to Switzerland.

Adolf Frey-Moock , Salomè (1910)

Franz von Stuck (Die Sünde,1892)


The sin by Franz von Stuck

The theme of Salome was much in the air in the decades between 1890 and 1910 (see also Lévy- Dhurmer in this catalogue). In 1904 Oscar Wilde’s play Salome was produced in Munich, followed shortly after by Richard Strauss’s operaSalome. In 1906 Franz von Stuck painted three versions of Salome (Voss 310), each showing Salome dancing, offering her nude body frontally, head twisted backwards over her shoulder. In preparation, Stuck or his wife Mary took a series of photographs of a model posing in front of a white canvas, stretched in a dark frame. The vertical columns of the dark frame, as it appears in the photo, might have been on Frey-Mook’s mind when he established the rigidly vertical figure of his Salome. He borrowed from Stuck the radiant head of John the Baptist, which in turn might have been inspired by Gustave Moreau’s Apparition of 1876. Frey-Moock’s color juxtaposition of dark shadows and glowing flesh are reminiscent of Stuck’s Sin (Die Sünde,1892), an omnipresent icon of the 1890’s to 1910’s (Stuck painted at least twelve versions of it). In fact, Stuck displayed Sin as an altar piece in the very studio where Frey-Moock was working as an assistant in 1906.

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Amazonen-Schlach (1920)

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Carlos Schwabe is one of the earliest Symbolist artists who operated in Germany: he exhibits in particular at the Munich Secession in 1893. Swiss, of Germanic origin, essentially self-taught he is linked to the Symbolist circles in Paris. he represents the idealism of a special vision of symbolism, which he seeks as a sort of "regeneration".

His world is tinted a dark eroticism. This singular shell creatures, living in a strange world where the line – the line as the movement – is important. Tending towards the ideal or debauchery, his version of symbolist woman is extremely polarized. In 1892, he was asked by the Sar Péladan, great Master and main leader of the organization rosicrusienne mystic, to design the poster for the first Salon de la Rose Croix.

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The event is held in the famous Durand-Ruelgallery in Paris and exhibited several works of Schwabe, thus contributing to its success.

carlos schwabe Les femmes damnees damned women

More Symbolist femmes fatale, this time courtesy of Carlos Schwabe (1866–1926) and his illustrations for Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal from 1900. Schwabe is more usually represented by his mystically-inspired paintings and drawings, especially those he produced for the Salon de la Rose+Croix; on the strength of some of his Baudelairean pieces I’d say he’s a worthy companion to Félicien Rops.

Fleurs-du-mal_benediction Fleurs-du-mal_hymne 7

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(b Paris, 23 March 1857; d Paris, 11 Aug 1939). French painter. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and in the studios of Henri Lehmann, Fernand Cormon and Léon Bonnat. His Salon entry in 1880, Portrait of M. O. (untraced), reflected his early attraction to the realist tradition of Spanish 17th-century painting. The impact of Impressionism encouraged him to lighten his palette and paint landscapes en plein air, such as In the Fields of Eragny (1888; Paris, Y. Osbert priv. col.). By the end of the 1880s he had cultivated the friendship of several Symbolist poets and the painter Puvis de Chavannes, which caused him to forsake his naturalistic approach and to adopt the aesthetic idealism of poetic painting. Abandoning subjects drawn from daily life, Osbert aimed to convey inner visions and developed a set of pictorial symbols. Inspired by Puvis, he simplified landscape forms, which served as backgrounds for static, isolated figures dissolved in mysterious light. A pointillist technique, borrowed from Seurat, a friend from Lehmann’s studio, dematerialized forms and added luminosity. However, Osbert eschewed the Divisionists’ full range of hues in his choice of blues, violets, yellows and silvery green. Osbert’s mysticism is seen in his large painting Vision (1892; Paris, Mus. d’Orsay). The Rosicrucian ideal of ‘art as the evocation of mystery, like prayer’ finds no better expression than the virginal figure of Faith—often interpreted as either St Geneviève or St Joan—set in a meadow with a lamb and enmeshed in an unearthly radiance. Such works were praised by Symbolist writers who considered them visual counterparts of the poetry of Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé and Maurice Maeterlinck. Osbert was called a ‘painter of evenings’, an ‘artist of the soul’ and a ‘poet of silence’ for his evocation of a mood of mystery and reverie. (Source: The Grove Dictionary of Art)


Vision, 1892

This painting was presented at the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1892 before featuring the following year in the second Rose+Croix Salon which brought together the elite of the Symbolist artists. A later presentation of the work, in 1899, provides more information about its subject: a vision of St Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.
Like many of Osbert’s paintings, this mystical, meditative painting uses a range of blues with no attempt at realism and no desire to illustrate the saint’s role in defending Paris against the Hun invasion in the mid-fifth century. Distinct in that respect from traditional history or religious paintings, this work, which drew much comment from journalists and art lovers who saw it on display, was considered to be more an illustration of a soul state. Since then, links have been established with neurological research, particularly that of Jean-Martin Charcot. It may be that the ecstatic state of the model, her rigid pose and fixed upward gaze were inspired by research into hysteria which was being carried out at the Salpétrière Hospital at the time. Reports on this research, illustrated by photographs, were widely circulated by the contemporary press.



Stanisław Wyspiański was the best known artist in the turn of the Century Poland, as well as the leading painter and poet from ‘Młoda Polska’ , the Polish declination of Art Nouveau.

He was author of play, poet, painter: a pure eclectic artist as commonly used at the Turn of the Century. Many information over his life and artistic production could be found on the quite complete reference page on wikipedia.


What we are presenting here in is one of the masterpiece of the Polish artist, as well one of the greatest and fairly known Art Nouveau styled decoration. In August 1894 Wyspiański was in his birth city again, after an experience abroad. And in Kraków, he got heavily involved in the modernist movement. It was then he designed and partially made a polychrome for the Franciscan Church that was composed of flowery, geometrical and heraldic motifs.


These fitomoprphic motives constitute a real enhancement towards the symbolic decorative characteristic of Art Nouveau. The catholic Wyspiański conceived the illustration of a church using floral thus claiming for the creative and vivificate  attitude of God. The growing flowers are then symbols of the God creative power; the abstract geometric decorations are symbols too of the mysterious force which is hidden behind the Creation.


Floral elements are typically feminine ones. The unlimited and outstanding mysterious presence of God can’t be restricted to a single gender. It it also can’t be restricted to any human like representation. Abstract is the aesthetic predominance in San Francis church, intuitive but never acknowledgeable the Logos of God.


Emile Fabry was Belgian symbolist painter and designer. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels under Jean-François Portaels, and worked with the designer Cir Jacques.

He had a special symbolist attitude towards the mysteries of the unconscious and of the obscure Nature forces. As many artists who worked within the milieu of Belgian Symbolism work, even Fabry was heavily influenced by Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949),  depicting characters who expresses anguish through its depiction of wild-eyed and deformed figures.

The still and silence pervade the composition, as in case of “le fil de la vie”, weather the eyes of the central figure seems to be able to investigate in-depth the unconscious of the spectator. Marbled and crystallized colors provide the impression of a world where inquietude and mystery are ruling …

In 1892 Fabry took part in the first exhibition of the group ‘Pour l’Art’, which he founded with Jean Delville and of which he depicted the poster, and in 1893 and 1895 exhibited at the Salons de la Rose+Croix, established by the Sar Joséphin Pèladan.

In this period he experimented an aesthetic in which the characters are disposed in front of the spectator, developing over vertical lines, somewhat with an architectural approach, recalling some conposition of pre-raphaelitism:

The palette is also darkening, soft pointillism suggest an intimae light experience, just like the light itself was produced by the character rather than coming from some natural source. Again, the supernatural and intimate unconscious take over the usual expectation about the external natural phenomenon. No forecast is possible in either the intimate world nor in the work of Fabry. In “Vers l’Ideal” there are also present influences from the Austrian Secession (Klimt):

Emile Verhaeren in 1896 wrote about him:

A special artists with a strong willing. He is able to clearly express sadness, force and ingenuous sweet attitude. His characters has large front, large eyes, compact long hairs, placed in a metallic, marbled and silent world: they are like suspended upwards as huge melancholic flowers. He is one of the rare artist who as a special attitude towards life, and who is living in a splendid world apart. A world which sometimes looks as the only who is actually real. And this is his powerful art. We are brought into this individual vision which completely fascinates the spectator.

And eventually these word were inspired by one of the masterpiece of Fabry, “Les gestes”, 1895:

In this painting the curve lines are ruling the development of the shapes. The large eyes and the lounged faces are incredibly expressive, providing a melting pot of different feelings such as sadness (the woman on the very left), melancholy (far right) and a perverted beauty, which is able to dig in-depth the spectator unconscious and inner world (central figures). One can feel these eyes right in his blood without being scared rather being fascinated. These long faces, with an hermetic expressions constitute a incitation to the spectator to know the inner part of himself. Just like a painted symbolic version of the Delphic and Heraclitean motto, a sort of parallel with the Klimtian Nuda Veritas: These eyes in Fabry’s painting are the counterpart of the Nuda Veritas’ glass, both directed toward the spectator own sight (either external and internal) …

Death at 101, the author during his long life continuously remain on his ideal, researching new expressive way to depict the inexpressible trough symbolic form and lines, with metallic colors, with an attitude towards the mystery, trough his love for veiled Isis. He still maintains his role of prophet of symbolism just at the time of non-figurative and too often rizomatic and casual art. Our flag versos any action (aka non-symbolic) art.

Unpredictable. Essentially, the very difference between the symbolic and the metaphoric in art resides in the possibility to guess a meaning behind the iconographic representation. In case of symbolist art the complexity (ethimologically, from Latin complicatio, literally “put several things together”) is due to the fact that the symbol shares a complexity of different (sometimes contradictories) meanings behind a painted scene, behind lines, behind colors.

The work of Linzy Kokoska is incredibly filled by symbolist evocations. She’s a living (yes, living !) artist, born in Nova Scotia but who who traveled trough many countries in Europe and Asia (see Linzy Kokoska visual artist profile on Facebook). Her second name, Kokoska, isn’t definitively invented, but it’s real: we don’t know if she’s relative of the famous Oskar Kokoschka, but we know that the spirit of Austria Felix, an aesthetic where coexist a complexity of artistic developments such as expressionism, decorativism, symbolism and secession, is still alive in this contemporary artist.

Unlike many contemporary artists, she doesn’t depict just abstract or non-figurative scenarios: on the contrary, the natural elements in Kokoska’s paintings are present, but the impression is by far superseded by the expression, the outstanding feeling of the artist is every time able to fully takeover the naturalistic representation. The artist’s own eyes and feelings are overcharged and, consequently, her colors completely supersedes the natural colors of objects, of flowers in this case, transfiguring any spectator own expectation based on his previous sensible experiences:

The internal energy and passion of the artist, her expression is able to takeover the colors of the most colorful natural elements par excellance, the flowers: Looking at the painting, one could be able to perceive the different smell of these flowers, charged of a water and icy scent; the author push the spectator to abandon himself to new sensorial feelings no more related to previous experiences, to feel the smell of a particular color,  in a sort of synesthetic approach to the painting. And the same applies to the forms, too:

A further step in the Symbolist direction is performed by Linzy Kokoska combining the perception of natural elements with images and symbols which belong to the incredibly wide universe of this painter’s own sensibility. Again, we are miles away from every Impressionism: natural elements aren’t copied, nor interpreted, but, really, created and transformed in a sort of heraclitean flux. Elements which probably still doesn’t exist per se, that aren’t part of any artist’s previous experience, but that are brought into the painting just after the artist’s own feelings. Quoting Oscar Wilde, the author precedes the Nature, the artist achieves the capability to manage the laws of creation, and she becomes creator of possible worlds where mountains seem to come out from a Russian folk dream, where flowers are growing under the sea under the mysterious forces of a creative Spinozist Nature.

The flow, in the latest painting, which seems to vitalize the flowers, is conceived, by the author, in form of abstract decorative curves and lines. And this represents the major step in the direction of Symbolism. As Henri van de Velde perfectly stated, the lines in decorative or figurative arts, is not just a “beautiful element”, an embellishment which excites the
eye of the spectator. The lines is charged by the energy and the spirituality of the artist who drawn it ! And, definitively, this is the case of Linzy Kokoska, too.

In this painting, she creates a world in which smooth and pastel colors join together with calm lines which seems to be taken out of a Greek  dream:

But in this other painting, spirals and light green, thin curves swirl on themselves in perpetuum motu together with strong and very definite colors, a powerful green flow which constitutes the border, a defensive shield of a bigger and delicate mysterious element.

This painting reveals not just that this lucky artist seems to have the key to enter the Alchemist’s Garden of Philosophers: but also that she maintains in herself some unconscious (fin-dè-siécle) Austrian spirit. When, in 1911, Klimt went to Bruxelles to see his own frieze finally installed in the Stoclet Palace, he was probably aware that many of the future guests of the palace would have regarded at this wall painting as a sort of beautiful eye capturer design. The few would have recognized that the colors and graphic elements of that decorations is a key to enter into an outstanding Forest of Symbols:

Linzy Kokoska is an artist who has her own style, who doesn’t follow any other rules than her passionate desire to live for art. What she’s doing right now is definitively Art Nouveau: and not really because she’s conforming to some ancient Master, or because she’s copying one particular style which developed at the turn of the century. She’s doing Art Nouveau in the proper sense of these words, because she’s freely doing an art which is consequence of her freedom and the time in which she’s living. The problem here is that, while she’s actually a young artist, her style seems to have been passed through two centuries, her time so widespread, not aged, but incredibly experienced, so complex  and indefinable, so unpredictable, and thus so fascinating.


John Collier is one of those artists who seems having lost their own momentum when they embraced a particular artistic movement or a specific stylistic way. IF the thematic, the historical background, the social aspiration, the style, a certain image of woman which are elements which characterized the Pre-Raphaelite movement could seem outdated in 1900:

One could really wonder if all the above was proposed by an artist still in the late ‘20s. Well, quite surprisingly, this was definitively the case of John Collier:

In due course, Collier became an integral part of the family of Thomas Henry Huxley PC, sometime President of the Royal Society. Collier married two of Huxley’s daughters and was "on terms of intimate friendship" with his son, the writer Leonard Huxley. – from Wikipedia, voice John Collier (painter)

He became quite famous as portrait painter and, due his strict relationships with the English high society, he was commissioned to portrait several members of the good British cultural and political elite. He was able to effectively apply the portrait technique  to historical  subjects too:

Collier died in 1934. His entry in the Dictionary of National Biography (volume for 1931–40, published 1949) compares his work to that of Frank Hollbecause of its solemnity. This is only true, however, of his many portraits of distinguished old men — his portraits of younger men, women and children, and his so-called "problem pictures", covering scenes of ordinary life, are often very bright and fresh.

His entry in the Dictionary of Art (1996 vol 7, p569), by Geoffrey Ashton, refers to the invisibility of his brush strokes as a "rather unexciting and flat use of paint" but contrasts that with "Collier’s strong and surprising sense of colour" which "created a disconcerting verisimilitude in both mood and appearance".

The Dictionary of Portrait Painters in Britain up to 1920 (1997) describes his portraits as "painterly works with a fresh use of light and colour".

One could think, after having read the above introduction, that we are facing quite a traditional artist, who couldn’t move out from strict stylistic rules and genres (the Pre-Raphaelite way of painting), devoted to the elegant portraits of very traditional society as per in England at the turn of the century and before the First World War.

Definitively, there’s something more with Collier. Let’s go further with his portrait of Lilith.

Here the subject came after the reading of the Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem entitled Eden’s Bower (1868):

      It was Lilith the wife of Adam:
                 (Eden bower’s in flower.)
      Not a drop of her blood was human,
      But she was made like a soft sweet woman.


Between the two paintings which depicted the poem (the Collier’s own and the Dante Gabriel Rossetti painting after his own verses), could be noticed how the style of Collier significantly differs from the Rossetti Pre-Raphaelite taste. The Lilith of Rossetti was depicted in form of a seductive woman, where the tonal accent resides on the red of the lips, of the hairs and of the flowers. The figure of the woman herself was represented as she was a frivol young lady seeking for a rich entitled gentlemen to be seduced by her beauty and luscious attitude. The frivol temperament of the character is also charged by the detail of the mirror (a typical woman toilette’s accessory) and the face expression, which looks like the one of a concubine who relies just on his fatal body rather than on her fascinating nor intelligent expression.

Luscious, evil, but also with a sinister fascinating light in her eyes: the Collier’s Lilith far beyond the posh puppy depicted by Rossetti. Lilith here is the classical femme fatale: colors are darkened, with evident dark yellow of the flesh (which recalls somewhat late Renaissance nudes). Lilith finally is painted adorned by the Snake, the very symbolic element associated with the Mesopotamia Goddess. She’s enjoying the contact with the morbid skin of the Snake, and she seems to completely rely upon her fascinating attitude, which could bound every man at her fee
t with the same luscious strength of the snake.

Collier’s female figure, then, is far from being a posh baby à là Rossetti: she’s really a Goddess, with elements far from the traditional figure of Mary Mother of God, but which seem much more related to the Femme Fatale iconography of the Symbolist paintings at the turn of the Century. Lilith here looks much more like the same character painted by Franz von Stuck rather than a Pre-Raphaelite nun or Madonna-like weak female. She’s a female who is really in charge, just like Venus in respect of Tannhauser (as in another Collier painting). Again, the theme goes beyond the Reinassance or English mythology of the Pre-Raphaelite, and recalls directly one of the most influencing artist at the turn of the Century, the initiator of the GesamtKunstwerk idea, Richard Wagner.

Woman Goddess, woman with the double aspect of passionate mother and passionate lover, the tenderness of the mother, the seductive evil of the animal passions:

The clothes are red, the sight fierce, the woman is able to relate herself with the under-terrain forces. The woman is a medium, just like a Priestess of Delphi.

This is the strange case of John Collier, himself too suspended between the idyllic sleepy atmosphere à là Burne-Jones & Rossetti, and the New Art which was possible, at the turn of the Century, just having proudly discover and depicted the real complexity of the Eternal Feminine.

Nato a Granada nel 1851, Ricardo Falero fu quel che si dice un bimbo prodigio. Anche grazie all’ingente patrimonio del padre, egli studiò fin da giovanissimo la lingua inglese, e coltivò la passione per la pittura, attività per cui mostrò presto un indiscutibile talento. Ancor bambino, riuscì a frequentare lezioni presso l’università di Richmond in Inghilterra e, quando aveva solamente 9 anni, proseguì la sua formazione a Parigi.

Ancor indeciso tra quale carriera intraprendere, a sedici anni cominciò ad occuparsi di ingegneria, di chimica e, finalmente, di pittura. E quest’ultimo fu indubbiamente l’attività per la quale il giovane Luis mostrò maggior interesse e talento. I suoi giovanili interessi per la chimica confluirono nella sua estetica sotto forma di citazioni e simbolismi mutuati dal mondo dell’alchimia. Analogamente, Luis Falero si interessò all’astrologia ed alla magia, utilizzando spesso iconografie e simbologie ermetiche nei propri dipinti. Falero morì prematuro, a soli 45 anni, nel 1896.

Gli interessi dell’artista nei confronti dell’Astrologia si riflettono inevitabilmente nelle sue opere. Così Venere assume le sembianze di una giovane fanciulla; al contempo, ninfette sempre più ammiccanti sembrano poter sedurre  e dunque controllare le forze supreme della natura, quegli aristotelici  Cieli incorruttibili e sempiterni un tempo accessibili solamente alla forza sovraumana del Motore Immobile ma che, alla Fin de siècle, in pieno simolismo Art Nouveau, paiono docili ed obbedienti al fascino del femminile …

E’ una bellezza femminile completamente diversa ed avversa ai canoni della Madonna Rinascimentale, naturalmente. Ma quello di Falero è un femminile completamente svincolato dalla fragile eterea bellezza pre-raffaellita, dalle fanciulle fragili, dalla salute cagionevole, e dall’ossatura malleabile di certa iconografia à là Burne Jones, per intenderci. La donna di Falero non solamente è bella, ma è pienamente volitiva, seducente, definitivamente pericolosa …

Un femminile erotico e fatale, una donna che custodisce i Segreti della Natura Naturante. Come una sacerdotessa dei Misteri, come una sacerdotessa di Iside (e non a caso, Falero fu un appassionato collezionista e cultore di egittologia), quello sguardo seducente e vagamente trasognante, come in trance, costituisce uno splendido portale che schiude gli inferi sotterranei del Mistero della Vita. Un’idea di femminile già simbolista e bachofeniana e vagamente pagana. Le sacerdotesse di Iside di Falero sono delle streghe perfette: beato l’uomo che saprà abbandonarsi a quella stregoneria chiamata seduzione, poichè a lui sarà dato scoprire di Iside il velo, ed infine poter ammirare tesori preziosi ed al contempo conturbanti. Proprio come queste bellezze …

I capelli rossi delle streghe/fate di Falero non possono non rievocare ante litteram le rosse Danae di Klimt o le rosse fanciulle dagli locchi eterei, ambigui e cristallizzati di Khnopff. Queste Visioni femminili di Falero hanno la stessa dirompente forza delle stesse impresse come demonico “pendaglio tra gli occhi” innanzi alla vista di Faust. Un demoniaco che finalmente con Falero recupera il suo originale significato greco, un dèmone che è guida verso gli abissi dell’Inconnu e del mistero. Un dèmone finalmente non diabolico, un dèmone finalmente femminile …

da W. Spemann, “Das Goldene Buch der Kunst”, 1904:

Hippolyte Delaroche, conosciuto comunemente come  Paul Delaroche (17 July 1797 – 4 November 1856) fu pittore francese, nato a Parigi. Formatosi alla scuola di Antoine-Jean, Baron Gros, il suo stile fu caratterizzato decisamente dalla pittura Romantica del secolo XIX.

La sua opera principale rimane il gigantesco dipinto di 27 metri (88.5 ft) , nell’emiciclo del teatro dell’ École des Beaux Arts a Parigi.

la riproduzione su incisioni di molte sue opere contribuì a far conoscere l’artista in Francia ed in Europa.

Lo stile di Delaroche è indubitabilmente influenzato dalla pittura francese di metà Ottocento, caratterizzato da una particolare attenzione al dettaglio, dalla caratterizzazione drammatica del volto e della gestualità dei personaggi, come nel dipinto “Joan d’arc being interrogated, 1824, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, France”:


Musa ispiratrice a grande amore del pittore fu la giovane Louise Vernet, figlia di Horace Vernet. E forse proprio questa sua passione contribuì a mitigare lo stile decisamente improntato al Romanticismo con una evoluzione che lascia intravedere qualche elemento di gusto simbolista. Se ancora l’elemento romantico e naturalistico, connotato da una ricerca espressiva, del dettaglio che catturi lo stato psicologico del soggetto, è ancora ben presente nel “Ritratto di Henrietta Sontag” …


… lo stile di Delaroche sarebbe stato destinato ad una imprevista mutazione. L’evento scatenante fu, nel 1845, l’improvvisa morte della giovane Louise, la passione di una vita. Dello stesso anno è il dipinto Ophelia, con evidenti riferimenti alla vicenda luttuosa che colpì l’artista:


L’elemento femminile è qui presentato nella sua forma più pura ed angelica. I tratti del volto sono adolescenziali e puri, santi; la stessa espressione di rassegnata sofferenza, il pallore esacerbato caratterizzano questa Ophelia di quel comune stereotipo del femminile fragile, caduco, malato, debole, da preservare come un delicato fiore, una dama fragile come uno stelo à la William Morris. Un ideale femminile da chanson de Roland, sovraccaricato di elementi cristiano religiosi. La luce proveniente da un misterioso punto nell’alto dei cieli sfiora come un velo di luce il volto di Ophelia, iniziandola ad una Vita Nuova. Ci si aspetterebbe che la fanciulla venisse direttamente trasportata da quel fascio luminoso in un Coro angelico. E questo insindacabile elemento di beata santità vien pure rimarcato dalla aureola che leggera anch’essa, corona la sofferenza della fragile donna. Condannata alla santità, fragile per eccellenza, delicata, la donna è ritratta conformemente a quella iconografia così comune tra gli artisti ottocenteschi, come già sottolinea Bram Dijkstra, proprio a proposito di questo dipinto (“Idols of Perversity”, New York 1986, p. 49). L’ombra alle spalle, una sorta di abbraccio fatale, di nero mantello Notturno, non lascia scampo al femminile: la donna è condannata a soccombere alle forze oscure demoniache. Il destino di Ophelia non è lo scontro, la battaglia, l’antitesi al velo nero, quanto piuttosto ad una docile e santa sottomissione, il ricongiungimento con il Sommo Bene mediante il sacrificio della propria vita e della propria corporeità. Il velo nero si allaccia idealmente dietro la schiena dell’oscuro personaggio maschile sullo sfondo: La ix, il malvagio è qui elemento decisamente riletto in chiave cristiana, e dunque diaboloca, e non già come connotazione femminea à la Bachofen, per intenderci. E dunque, non è qui una Ophelia in diretto rapporto con la natura, propaggine estrema delle forze interiori ed ataviche della Grande Madre (come voleva Adriana Cavarero): l’Ophelia di Delaroche a quell’ombra non sa opporre resistenza, in nome del supremo sacrificio al Sommo Bene, in nome della santità del suo sesso. Analogamente, ogni riferimento anche vagamente sessuale nel dipinto è ben mascherato: la luce ricopre tutto il corpo di Ophelia, e l’acqua rigonfia le vesti fin a non far intravedere le Linee del corpo, fino a nascondere definitivamente ogni elemento sensuale.

Nulla di più distante, dunque, dall’icona della donna fatale, sensuale, eroticamente carica, pericolosa, demoniaca e non certo santa, amante prima che madre, la Donna Oscura riscoperta dal Simbolismo e dall’Art Nouveau ? Eppure … Eppure nel 1843 Delaroche si risolse a dipingere un tema poi divenuto quasi un classico dell’iconografia simbolista, Herodias:


Anche in questo dipinto, la luce è dirimente tra la scena in primo piano ed il personaggio di contorno, colpendo direttamente il volto e la figura femminile immediatamente a ridosso dello spettatore che osservi il dipinto. Risulta decisamente evidente la differente visione del femminile cui ci si imbatte in questo dipinto. Fiera e superba, sensuale e perfida, la Herodias di Delaroche incarna al meglio quelle caratteristiche fisiognomiche di femme fatale che assurgeranno a caratteristica comune di tante raffigurazioni del femminile nelle produzioni simboliste ed art nouveau. L’abito rigorosamente color rosso fuoco bordato da una larga fascia gialla, fasci di perle ad ornare il polso ed i capelli, quasi ad avviluppare il corpo in un fastoso e lussuoso serpente; lo sguardo più che mai vivo e vitale, al contrario di Ophelia, quanto più volitivo e spietato, gli occhi profondi e neri in un taglio da proche orient, l’aspetto vagamente tzigano. L’elemento esotico è esso stesso simbolo dell’alterità, del mistero affascinante, dell’inconnu pericoloso ed a tratti seducente… In definitiva la Herodias di Delaroche è una sorta di anticipazione della femme fatale simbolista e si discosta decisamente da una idea della donna, peraltro professata dallo stesso pittore francese, debole e dalla fragilità beata e santa. Quello che ancora manca nel dipinto di Delaroche è la carica seduttiva, la bellezza doppia che sa affascinare anche in virtù della propria perversità. La bellezza femminile per Delaro
che è ancora quella della perduta Luoise, giovane, fragile e santa. Questa Herodias ha uno sguardo più maligno che seducente, e gli occhi sono carichi di una rabbia che dovrebbero repellere l’uomo retto e probo. Ma sarà proprio quello sguardo tagliente, al contrario, ad affascinare tutta una generazione di artisti (e non solo) ed a liberare infine il femminile in tutta la sua carica erotica, esplosiva, vitale. Vita e Morte, dunque, che saranno destinati ancor una volta, ad esser congiunti come voleva il filosofo di Efeso …


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