Lot 219
  • 219

Émile Bernard

300,000 - 400,000 USD
360,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Émile Bernard

  • Signed and dated E. Bernard 1889 (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas


Sale: Piasa, Paris, December 9, 1998, lot 20


Jean-Jacques Luthi, Emile Bernard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1982, no. 215, illustrated p. 37

Catalogue Note

The subject of the present work is based on, Lohengrin, is one of the most celebrated heroes of German Arthurian literature.  The son of Parsifal, he is a knight of the Holy Grail who is best remembered for arriving in a boat pulled by swans to rescue the helpless Else, Duchess of Brabant.  He is bound by a mystical oath, however, and warns her she must never ask his name. Lohengrin and Else marry, and the knight serves Brabant faithfully for years, but eventually the Duchess’s curiosity overwhelms her, and she asks the forbidden question.  He explains his origin and is compelled back onto his swan boat, never to return.  In the present work, Else adopts a reclining pose of melancholy while Lohengrin glides away into the glimmering distance.

In 1848, Richard Wagner used this myth in his opera, Lohengrin, through which the story is best known today.  Wagner’s opera deeply moved the young King Ludwig of Bavaria, who was inspired to build a vertiginously Romantic castle and name it after the Swan Knight, "New Swan Stone," or Neuschwanstein.

The subject is a natural one for Émile Bernard who considered himself a founder of pictorial symbolism.  Like the simple religious traditions of the Bretons, Arthurian chivalric romances are among the building blocks of Western civilization’s collective imagination.