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Odilon Redon "L'Apparition" Painting

Redon’s Apparition is a depiction of the artist’s dream. As nineteenth-century artists explored their relationship with the natural world, Redon depicts a veritable golden age in which man and nature live in harmony. As the viewer becomes lost in the wilderness, they encounter the divine: a figure in a Phrygian cap, cloak, and leopard skin. The first depictions of Phrygian clothing were in the Persian capital of Persepolis but it was later adopted by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. In the influential Persian epic, Shahnameh (Book of Kings) the earliest Shahs wore leopard skin. Accordingly, the attire of Redon’s figure evokes an idealized past of democratic ideals and peaceful coexistence with the animal kingdom.

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  • Product Details
  • Curator's Notes

Item #: ML-20897
Artist: Odilon Redon
Country: France
Circa: 1900
Dimensions: 8.875" high x 7.5" wide {Framed 13..25" high x 12" wide x 2" deep}
Materials: Oil on paper, laid down on board
Signed: initials (OD.R)
Provenance: Hotel Druout, Paris, February 27, 1909, lot 52 Bernheim-Jeune & Cie., Paris (acquired from the above)
Exhibition History: Prague, Société Manes, 1910 The Art Institute of Chicago, Private Collection in Chicago, 1969

During the late Medieval and Renaissance periods, the Three Kings—Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar—were often dressed in this manner, which later became an identifying symbol of French revolutionaries. The figure’s hair is in the style of Coiffure à la Titus. Most famously worn by Napoleon Bonaparte, the short, wispy, windswept hairstyle was inspired by the great Emperor Titus, conqueror of Jerusalem and patron of the Colosseum. Redon’s halo-encircled wings identify the figure as divine in nature. At his feet, a small oak sapling grows. The French academic practice of rendering trees with multiple trunks came from observing the old-growth oak trees of Fontainebleau. The 19th-century landscape artists of the Barbizon School and Impressionists frequently made sketching trips to Fontainebleau, creating the world’s first nature reserves. Redon’s clearing is populated with a rock covered in grass and foliage. A lavender weeping willow with green leaves evokes the French lakeside. A multicolor heavily impastoed background creates a dream-like atmosphere to the painting.