The Sphinx by Gustuve Moreau (1864) in “The Pageant”

Wikis > The Sphinx by Gustuve Moreau (1864) in "The Pageant"
Portrait of two figures, looking at each other in a surreal setting. The man is holding a staff, looking down at the female figure and and the female figure (looking up) is a hybrid, what seems like part animal, part human and part bird.
The Sphinx, by Gustave Moreau (1864)

The late 19th century little magazine, “The Pageant” showcases a variety of literature and Art emphasizing beauty and aesthetics with a heavy focus on “mythology, fairytales, pre-Raphaelitism and naturalism”  (King, 2019) . “The Sphinx”, by Gustuve Moreau (1864) is an art piece found in the second volume of The Pageant, which consists of both, mythical and fairytale elements. Hazelwood Shanon – the editor of the volume-  asked permission to reproduce existing prints  from a collector from Paris by the name of MR.L.Leadre, who held the copyrights of the prints (King, 2019). Hence, the artwork is a reproduction of the prints of the original oil painting done by Gustae Moreau in 1864. Although, originally a coloured painting, “The Sphinx” appears as a half tone,  is found on  pages 13 and 14  in the second volume of The Pageant.

The immediate reaction that this artwork provokes is a sense of intimacy and mystery. The centralized female figure consists of inhumane qualities which draws the viewers closer to the image. Her upper body- mostly head and bare chest- showcases a fragile human female, although her back consists of bird-like wings and her bottom seems to be of a dog or wolf. The intriguing imagery suggests a sense of fantasy and mythical aspects in the artwork. Also, the male figure is holding a staff, giving the male figure a sort of “Godly” quality, again an element of  mythical creature. Moreover, the creature’s body is clinging on the leaned back male figure, hence the position of the figures promote a feeling of unity, the intertwined bodies evoke a sense of harmony. Both the figures are deeply glaring into each other’s eyes, suggesting a level of intimacy, deepening the harmony. Moreau’s of these mythical creatures in The Sphinx showcase an intimate moment between two odd but united figures, producing a moment of closeness in a fantasy world .

Work Cited

King, Frederick. “Critical Introduction to The Pageant Volume 2, 1897,” Pageant Digital Edition, Yellow Nineties 2.0 , edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.


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