Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)


Pastel, watercolor, and pencil on paper

728.3 x 25.4 cm

The death's head or skull that appears in the sphinx in Khnopff's After Joséphin Péladan, The Supreme Vice here tops the pillars, making clear that the overtly sexual nude is associated with, and probably brings, death — a point not so strange in an age when syphillis had no cure. Below the skulls are three rows of bag-like objets, the multiple breasts found on ancient statues of Aphrodite or Venus in her role as life-giver or nurturer. The heavy-bodied nude, who could be an ancient temple prostitute, gazes directly at the viewer, whom I assume the artist coinceived as a male viewer.