Fernand Khnopff

Belgian, 1858 - 1921


Date: 1896

This painting is also known as The Caress, The Caresses or The Sphinx. The ambiguity of the title was deliberate.

It is possibly Khnopff's most famous work, betraying his links with Gustave Moreau and the Pre-Raphaelites. The perversity of the subject is typical, and is underlined by the fact that the head of the sphinx is a likeness of the artist's sister. He was obsessed by her beauty and she appears in many of his pictures. Despite the thematic ambiguity, however, there is nothing accidental about the composition. Khnopff was a dandy and his pictures, like his clothes and his house in Brussels, were arranged with scrupulous attention to detail.

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