Les Océanides (Les Naiades de la mer)

GUSTAVE DORE (1832-1883) Biography
SYMBOLISM (founded 1886) Biography

Les Océanides (Les Naiades de la mer) (France, c.1860)

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Oil on canvas
Signed Gve Doré


127.00cm high
185.50cm wide
(50.00 inches high)
(73.03 inches wide)
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Mme la Marquise Landolfo Carcano
Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 30 May 1912, lot 33
Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 17 February 1984, lot 46


Henri Leblanc, Catalogue de l'Oeuvre complet de Gustave Doré, Charles Bosse Libraire, Paris 1935, pages 65 and 424

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Les Oceanides is a haunting interpretation of a scene from Prometheus Bound, a play by Aeschylus, written between 460 and 450 BC. The water nymphs, daughters of the Titan deities Oceanus and Thetis, cling to the rock where Prometheus is chained. His fate was a punishment from Zeus for both stealing back a spark of fire from the Gods and restoring it to man and for holding the secret of the Oracle's prophecy: how the Oceanides? mother, Thetis, would bear a child greater and more powerful than Zeus himself. As further punishment, Zeus ordered the creation of Pandora, the first woman, who released from her box all the evils of the world.

Dramatically lit, Les Oceanides, swept by the sea's current onto Prometheus's rock, reveal not only Dore's understanding of chiaroscuro, a talent which can be traced back to his prolific work as an engraver and illustrator, but also the artist's restless meditation on mythology and its relationship to life and death. Dore's oeuvre is a crucial link between French Romanticism and European Symbolism.

Gustave Dore set up his studio in Paris, converting the Amiros Gymnasium in the Rue Bayard to accommodate the enormous canvases he often favoured, which he filled with spectacular flights of his imagination. He opened his celebrated gallery in London at 35 New Bond Street in 1868. The British public, in admiration of his overwhelming imagery, dubbed him ?The Visionary Painter?.