Charles van Deun has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
An exceptionally large gouache from the latter part in Delvaux'’s career, Les Mysterieuses epitomizes the essence of the artist'’s work: his life-long obsession with the erotic nature of women.
Seven nude women, representing different types of female beauty, are shown bust-length. Young and representing a rather Nordic type of beauty, they are characterised by their long and slim body, very pale skin, straight hair, and round large eyes. Typical of Delvaux'’s work, the women are looking neither at each other nor at the beholder. They arranged in a frieze with no real interaction between them, all looking downwards or sideways, self-absorbed in their own thoughts.
In 1987 Delvaux explained that the nudes in his paintings: '[are] purely as a presence without any particular role. They form part of the pictorial structure, the aim of which is purely poetic; they are attractive only in the lyrical sense; they have no mission in the picture beyond that of the poetic’ (Jacques Meurice-Paul Delvaux Sept dialogues, Brussels, 1987, pp. 22 & 58).
In its dense composition, with neither a complex architecture nor a deeply receding space, Les Mysterieuses recalls Delvaux’s three early paintings of 1928, Les filles dans la forêt, Femmes devant la mer and Jeune Filles, which for the first time showed nude women, thus marking the beginning of his life-long treatment of the subject (fig. 1).
(fig. 1) Paul Delvaux, Les filles de la forêt, 1928, Private collection.