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Profil de Lumière
(Profile of Light), 1886

Redon took inspiration from the Italian artist Piero della Francesca's fresco cycle The Legend of the True Cross (c.1452), and this profile is inspired by Piero's depiction of the Queen of Sheba. Fifteenth-century Italian artists, known as the 'Italian Primitives', were held in high regard in Symbolist circles, and Redon's peers would have been aware of the pictorial source once the connection had been made. The source is not obvious just from the Profil, so when it was first identified by Joris-Karl Huysmans, he must have had some prior knowledge which led him to identify it.

Redon made this elegant, melancholic profile into a symbol of light, which mysteriously, perhaps spiritually, seems to emanate from the face. He revealed: 'The title is not justified unless it is vague, indeterminate, and aspiring, even confusingly equivocal.' The mystical quality is given credence by the fact Redon originally thought of calling this image 'The Fairy'. This, however, proved too concrete, and Redon changed it to a more abstract and symbolic title.


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The Fitzwilliam Museum : Individual prints

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