The Suitors

The Suitors by Gustave Moreau. Begun 1852 or 1853. Oil on canvas, 11 feet 5 inches x 12 feet 5 1/2 inches. Musée Gustave-Moreau, Paris. According to Jean Clay,

Moreau pivoted the axis of his main event some 45 degrees so that the action — the confrontation of the hero and the suitors — occurs not parallel to the painting surface (as, for example, in the friezelike disposition favored by David), but perpendicular to it. Moreover, the staging of the scene required, just as the cinema frequently would, that the motor force of the action (Ulysses) appear not in the foreground — or even in the title — but at considerable remove, there almost absorbed by the architectural setting. (Nor does the position of the central character coincide with the center of the perspective, whose lines converge at the foot of the radiant figure of Minerva [Athena].)'" [p. 312]

"Particularly influential, so far as the artists of Moreau's own time were concerned, was the languid androgynous type with which he peopled his compositions. The Neoplatonic idea of the androgyne was to exercise a powerful fascination over late nineteenth-century critics and acstheticians, but it was Moreau who gave form to this idea in paint upon canvas. . . . In Moreau, it is above all the male who is languid and doomed to destruction. The poets who appear often in his compositions are frail, passive creatures; in The Suitors, we witness the massacre of beautiful effeminates — our sympathy goes out to them, rather than to Ulysses, whose house they have invaded." — Edward Lucie-Smith (68)

Other views


Clay, Jean. Romanticism. Trans. Daniel Wheeler and Craig Owen. Seacaucus, N. J.: Chartwell books, 1981 [Orginally published by Hachette in Paris the previous year].

Kaplan, Julius. Gustave Moreau. Exhibition catalogue. Greenwich, Connecticut: New York Graphic Society, 1974.

Lucie-Smith, Edward. Symbolist Art. Trans. Mary Ann Stevens. London: Thames and Hudson, 1972.

Paladilhe, Jean, and José Pierre. Gustave Moreau. Trans. Bettina Wadia. New York: Praeger, 1972.

Last modified 30 April 2008