Sunday, December 5, 2010

Artworks I'd Steal: Félicien Rops

source: Wikipedia
A while ago the Bucerius Kunst Forum, a small museum in Hamburg, hosted an exhibition about Anthony the Great and how artists have depicted him, in particular the temptation of Anthony. It was an amazing exhibition, with art from the Middle Ages to modern times and I fell in love with quite a few pieces (the one by Bosch for example or by Max Ernst). But Félicien Rops' work made my jaw drop. Usually, Anthony is shown tormented by monsters, but Rops didn't bother with metaphors and considering how hostile towards sexuality the church is, I'd say he has nailed it.

It was painted in 1878 and I can only imagine how shocked people were at the time. I spend some time watching the visitors at the exhibition and the painting almost always got a visible reaction, whether it was a shocked laugh, a frown or some sign of approval.
I love all the little details, like the pig (often associated with Anthony) that looks at the whole scene like it has seen it all or the skeleton putti. Anthony has been reading about Joseph and in the book illustration, Joseph is fleeing from Potiphar's wife. Everything in the picture is well within the tradition of depictions of Anthony's temptations, but I don't think anyone has ever been so direct about it and so tongue-in-cheek.

Rops certainly was unconcerned with morals and acceptable behaviour - he lived with two lovers (two sisters) for over thirty years, some of his works were censored due to a "breach of morality" and he illustrated many "decadent" artists such as Verlaine and Baudelaire. Despite all the scandal, he was a successful artists and even received the medal of the French Légion d'honneur. You can find more about him on the homepage of the Rops Museum and this website has an online collection of many of his paintings.


  1. I am a big fan of Rops' paintings. He also did some truly bizarre drawings that are very stylized. Interesting guy.

  2. I did some research on him after first seeing the painting and I can't believe he has never been arrested. I need to get over my dislike for French authors and read some Fin de Siècle literature, they really were a wild bunch.