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    Sale 7703

    Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper

    5 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 133

    Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)

    Des cheveux noirs

    Price Realised  


    Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
    Des cheveux noirs
    signed 'FERNAND KHNOPFF' (lower left)
    charcoal, coloured crayon and gouache on paper
    13 x 9 in. (33 x 23 cm.)
    Executed in 1914

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    The vast majority of Fernand Khnopff's work showcases his talent as a draughtsman and his small-scale works on paper are among the most celebrated in his oeuvre. The subtle nuances and gradations of tone on paper endow Des cheveux noirs with a heavy and mysterious atmosphere, perfectly suited to the femme fatale he depicts. Although she bares the characteristic traits of one of Khnopff's archetypal heroines - fair-eyed, distant and supremely elegant - the provocatively posed figure has an aggressive sexuality that marks her out as a somewhat sinister seductress.

    As a key figure of the Symbolist Movement in Europe, Khnopff transformed the Realist genre far beyond its descriptive powers, creating symbolic images portraying his private world, his memories and his obsessions. The philosophical underpinnings of the movement advocated a reaction against the direct imitation of Nature in favor of a return to the spiritual realm, the world of dreams, allegories and the fantastical. Khnopff's frequent depiction of women as erotically charged mythological beings represent his desire to portray mysticism, emotionalism and the loss of intellectual control - all characteristics that he aligned with the feminine. Like his images of the fabled Sphinx and Medusa, the vampish creature of Des cheveux noirs is a sharp contrast to the traditional representation of woman as a symbol of virginal innocence, suggesting the darker side of femininity and the threat of unchecked sexual desire.

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    Fernand Khnopff sale, Brussels, 1922, lot 62.
    Anonymous sale, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 27 March 1985, lot 760 (illustrated on the cover, titled L'ange du mal).
    Piccadilly Gallery, London.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1985.


    'Dior, Cartier en Khnopff in het Paleis voor Schone Kunsten' in Financieel, Economische Tijd, Antwerp, 22 March 1985 (illustrated). R.L. Delevoy, C. de Croës & G. Ollinger-Zinque, Fernand Khnopff, Catalogue de l'oeuvre, Brussels, 1987, no. 526 (illustrated p. 479).


    Brussels, Salle Studio, Salon d'été, 1915, no. 45.