Dreams of Desire 43 (The Sabbath)

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Paul Delvaux-The Sabbath 1962

One of Paul Delvaux’s (Dreams of Desire 38 (Night Train)Dreams of Desire 39 (Sleeping Venus) and Dreams of Desire 40 (The Girls from the Provinces) more macabre paintings, The Sabbath from 1962 shows a group of mysterious robed (and disrobed) women, who it is safe to assume are witches given the title, strike a variety of poses. The solitary male in the painting, a professor who has strayed from a Jules Verne novel into this sinister forest clearance stares fixedly into the mirror, doubtless trying to avoid the fate of Actaeon when he beheld the untameable beauty of Diana.

Dreams of Desire 40 (The Girls from the Provinces)

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Paul Delvaux-Silent Night 1962

As a child Paul Delvaux devoured the work of the writer Jules Verne, especially Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and characters and scenes from Verne would populate Delvaux’s canvas throughout his career. The eccentric Victorian professors are frequently the only male (and fully clothed) figures in the predominantly female (and undressed) Uneasy City that is the setting for all Delvaux’s paintings.

Silent Night is from his later period and there is a variant entitled The Girls From the Provinces that features the same cast of characters in different positions and set in the late afternoon as opposed to night-time. The embracing girls from the provinces, on the right, make explicit Delvaux’s fascination with lesbianism that is usually only hinted at in his paintings.