Gustav Adolf Mossa. "Elle". (1905). All rights reserved.

One of the sides of the Symbolism style at the end of the 19th century is to represent the femme fatale. The icon of this kind of representations is The idol of perversity by Jean Delville (1891), but Elle by Adolf Mossa (1905) is not so far from it.

As always, we should analyze the elements of the painting, including all the details to try to find an interpretation. The main figure is a female nude lied down over a mountain and with brown hair and big eyes.

Let’s start from the top. There are two crows at both sides of the head as if the hair is a nest, a bird of bad omen, that are protecting three little skulls oriented in three different directions, which could be an allegory of time: past, present and future, the same that the popular Titian painting, but there were heads and here are skulls. Is it the end of times? Probably.

Another interesting and contradictory detail is a golden aura surrounding the head of Elle. But, could be Elle a saint? Not at all, probably this is a blasphemous element.

The pale face, the earrings and the necklace indicate that the woman could belong to aristocracy, maybe Victorian, contemporary with the painter.

The nude body: proportions and gesture reveal that the technique of Mossa is not perfect, he is not painting a proportioned nude body.

We arrive to the bottom, where there is the clue of the interpretation of the painting: the peak is a mountain made by human cadavers, probably male. Respect to the human bodies, Elle is a a giant, she is no doubt the incarnation of an evil monster.

I suggest several possible interpretations: first, Elle is Babylon, the Whore city of Asyria: the maximum incarnation of lust in the Earth. Another interpretation is that Elle is the Beast of Apocalypse, again related with the Christian question. The last suggestion is that Elle is the incarnation of all the evil for men, the woman that devours all men, the Praying Mantis, the supreme femme fatale.

Just the fantasies of fin de siècle drove the artists to think that the new women, the feminist, was breaking the traditional rules and she was a menace for men. I´m fascinated by this age but I will never understand its misogyny.

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4 thoughts on “Fear of Elle

  1. Con esta la broma de que tie un gato acostao es literal jajajaja

    Me he despistao un poco en mandarte correcciones pero no hay nada destacable 😉

    1. No te preocupes Adolfo, creo que he ido tomando buena nota de tus consejos y lo he ido aplicando.
      Espero que te gusten los posts. Un abrazo.

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