- Paul Delvaux
- Éloge de la mélancolie (Pénélope)
- Signed P. Delvaux and dated St. Idesbald 1951-1952 (lower right)
- Oil on panel
Sale: Antwerp, Galerie Campo, October 15, 1963, lot 55
Jeffrey H. Loria & Co., Inc., New York
Acquired from the above in 1985
Antwerp, Meir, Salle des Fêtes, L'Art contemporain. Salon 1953, 1953, no. 57
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Rétrospective Paul Delvaux, 1969, no. 44 (titled Pénélope)
Michel Butor, Jean Clair & Suzanne Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux, Brussels, 1975, no. 207, illustrated p. 233
Delvaux's picture of the chaste queen is one of his most elaborate depictions of the female form. A dramatic change from the unabashed nudity of the women in his other pictures of this era Penelope is rendered in a flowing blue gown, which can be interpreted as an allusion to the blue veil of the Virgin Mary. Particularly detailed is the woman's tiara, with jewels depicted in thick, punctuating dots of paint. Delvaux's characteristic sense of irony is at its most uncanny in this picture, with the reference to Greek myth and modern innovation all presented in a grand-scale composition.
Although he was never a member of the Surrealist group, Delvaux's paintings characterize an unmistakable element of Surrealist absurdity. Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque writes of the artist in the context of the Surrealists: "There is no need whatsoever of psychological analyses or psychoanalytical interpretations, which by the way the artist firmly rejected, to understand the world of Paul Delvaux. It is made of simplicity and reality. It is the blossoming and affirmation of poetry by means of the contrasts that exist between the great monumental figures and the anachronistic settings in which they move. In this the artist agrees with the thinking of Breton who declared that the more the relationships between two connected realities were distant and exact, the more powerful the image would be. More than Delvaux the painter, it was Delvaux the surrealist poet whom Eluard and Breton hailed because his pictorial universe exists out of time, eludes fashion and defies any attempt at classification" (Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque, Paul Delvaux 1897-1994 (exhibition catalogue), Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, 1997, p. 27).