María Menéndez. "La bella terminal" (1996). All rights reserved.

The title “Beautiful Terminal” has been chosen by María Menéndez to name this drawing. A woman dressed in black with an scythe: no doubt she is the Death. This kind of representation of the Death comes from 19th century and very specially from the Symbolist movement. I remember Carlos Schwabe’s The Death of the Grave-Digger (1895) or the several paints of Thanatos as a beautyful female by Jacek Malczewski, as examples of this allegories of Death as beautyful females.

In one of my previous posts, I referred that the genre of the allegoric figures depends on the genre of the word in your language. Many allegories use to represent abstract concepts that use to be writen in femenine genre. But this not happen always with Death. Death is a femenine word in many languages but not all. For instance in german der Tod is a masculine word and just because of it we find in german art some representations of Death as a male. Later, I´ll discuse about other possible meaning putting death as a female.

The main attribute of La bella terminal is her beauty. She is a blonde maiden dressed in an elegant and long black dress. Beauty here could symbolise that maybe death it´s not so horrible as we have also thought and as it has been represented as a skull, a vanitas. I think this beauty associated to death could come from Romanticism and concretely I want to mention the book Axel written by Villiers de l’Isle-Adam in 1890. In this book the two lovers rise to ecstasy being together and they deceide that they are in the top and the most true love should be showed dying together in this climax. To die as a way to sublimate the most pure love. In this context is perfect to represent Death as a beautiful female.

Coming back to our Beautiful Terminal, her eyes are closed and the position of the head is softly slanting to the front. It´s just like she is not happy with her task. She doesn´t like to bring people from life to death but it´s her fate. Her dress is very long and wide in the basis, as a tree is born from the ground, even more when surrounding the dress there are branches. There is also some skulls that connects again the lady with death. This element of union between a female with the groud appeared in my previous post “Illustrating Fairies” where a girl was the peak of a hill.

This fact makes us to reflect about the conection of the female being with the Earth. In this case the terminal beauty is the opposite to fertility goddess or Mother Nature: a female gives us the life and another female drives us to Death. Feminity as creator and destructive principles. These ideas can be related with a feminine conception, even feminist, maybe because the artist is a female.


3 thoughts on “La bella terminal

  1. For me all these drawings are also very important. They represent a dream come true, being part of El Luto is one of the best things I’ve done in life!

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