09
Nov
12

Day 314: Hélène Glorifiée, by Gustave Moreau

gustave-moreau-helene-glorifee

Day 314: Hélène Glorifiée, by Gustave Moreau

The image of the femme fatale, who brought death and destruction to mankind, is central to the oeuvre of Gustave Moreau (1826-1898). Helen of Troy, in whose name the famous war was fought, features in a number of his works.

The iconographic source for this watercolour is more obscure, and comes from Goethe’s Faust: “Faust, commanded by Mephisto to bring him the archetype of beauty, summons the spirit of Helen from Hades. Falling himself in love with Helen, Faust fathers her winged child Euphorion, who charms all with his beauty and gift for music before dying young and calling his mother back with him to Hades. She is represented in the present work surrounded and glorified by her eternal admirers, the warrior on the left, the poet and king on the right, and her son at her feet.” [Source: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/drawings-watercolors/gustave-moreau-helene-glorifiee-5620299-details.aspx].

This work is distinguished by the high degree of finish as well as the use of mixed media (watercolour pigments with gouache and gold). The resulting effect is one of a rich and textured surface usually reserved for Moreau’s oil paintings that resemble pavé-set gem stones rather than an ordinary painted canvas. The richness of its colours (considering the age of this work) is a testament of an extreme care taken to preserve the original beauty of the fragile watercolour and gouache pigments by its various owners throughout the illustrious and dramatic history of this piece.

The exquisite watercolour by Gustave Moreau is among the highlights of Christie’s forthcoming 19th Century European Art sale in London, on 21 November 2012 (lot 14, est £300,000 – £500,000).

http://www.christies.com/

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]

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