The Kiss of Sphinx-Franz von Stuck
In Greek tradition, the Sphinx has the head of a human, the haunches of a lion, and sometimes the wings of a bird. It is mythicized as treacherous and merciless. Those who cannot answer its riddle suffer a fate typical in such mythological stories, as they are killed and eaten by this ravenous monster.This deadly version of a sphinx appears in the myth and drama of Oedipus. Interestingly, the Egyptian sphinx is typically shown as a man (an androsphinx), and was viewed as benevolent, but having a ferocious strength like the malevolent Greek version.Both were thought of as guardians often flanking the entrances to temples. Harry Potter fans may be confused, as JK Rowling’s version of the sphinx is Egyptian but female. This painting is grand melodrama painted in a blaze of fiery red. Locked in a passionate kiss, the sphinx presses her lips against the man's like a vampire, as if to suck the life out of him. It was a poem by Heinrich Heine that inspired Stuck to paint this triumph of woman over man. In the 19th century, the sphinx depicted various struggles: the battle between animal instincts and the intellect, the eternal conflict between man and woman, or the search for the meaning of human existence.There lies the sphinx, this time a bewitchingly beautiful woman, on a low slab of rock. With her lion's claws, she clasps the body of the unfortunate, who has sunk to his knees, while her lips press against his. The painting caused a sensation in Munich. The police ordered all reproductions removed from the windows of art galleries. The painting was regarded as a universal symbol of the passion that leads to downfall.
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