The Age of Splendor1894 by Jean Delville

The Age Of Splendor

Delville’s 1894 painting can be seen as an illustration of this next phase of human development, transcending the entrapment of matter.The realm of matter is represented by serpents and tangled thorny roses at the bottom right of the canvas. A male figure, with raised arms and upturned eyes similar to those of Mrs. Stuart Merrill, sits half in and half out of the material realm. On his left, a luminous and almost bodyless female angel rises upward, with the fluid and transparent folds of her dress surrounding the man in a circle of light. A vast landscape spreads out, far below the figures. It is filled with jagged hills similar to those in Satan’s Treasures. Here, however, they are painted in luminous purples and golds and rise out of a bright blue sea.

This scene can be viewed in two ways. If it is inspired by the episode from Schuré’s Initiation of Isis, the man would be the disciple’s discarded earthly self, falling back, and swallowed up by matter. In this case, the angel would be what Schuré describes as “another, purer, more ethereal self,” which has just been born. Alternatively, if the story is not taken directly from Schuré, the angel can be seen as a separate being (perhaps the man’s higher self), guiding him up from the abyss.
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