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The Idol of Perversity (L’idole de la perversité) 1891

On my visit to the Guggenheim Museum, NYC, 2017. Program Notes:

The Idol of Perversity (L’idole de la perversité) 1891, Graphite on paper, Museum Wiesbaden, Germany, Collection of F.W. Neess, First Salon de la Rose+Croix, 1892, Jean Delville, b. 1867, Leuven, Belgium, d. 1953, Forest, Belgium

“The femme fatale incarnated the misogynistic, pseudoscientific views of the late nineteenth century that asserted women were lower beings on the evolutionary scale. The female sex was allegedly atavistic and closer to animals – one impetus that led Symbolists to portray femmes fatales as monstrous. Jean Delville’s The Idol of Perversity presents an enigmatic female who exemplifies aggressive sexuality. Depicted from below, she looms large, looking down with a demonic expression as a phallic snake slithers between her pointed breasts and others radiate from her address. Her vaguely “exotic” appearance makes her doubly “other” and uncivilized according to racial mores of the time…”

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