La Vieille: Que crains-tu? Un large trou noir! Il est vide peut-être?
(The Old Woman: What are you afraid of? A wide black hole! Perhaps it is a void?)
Plate 19 of 24
Redon found inspiration in Flaubert's evocative description of the Old Woman:
A shroud knotted about her head, hangs down, together with her [long] white hair ... The brilliancy of her ivory-coloured teeth make her earthly skin darker still. The orbits of her eyes are full of shadow; and far back within them two flames vacillate, like the lamps of sepulchres.
The black light in her eyes is a symbol of the Devil, and her skeletal body hints at the fact that she is about to transform into the figure of Death. This theme of transformation was perhaps Redon's reason for creating a flowing, decorative background. Decorative imagery became an important aspect of Redon's colour work, but the beginnings of it are found here. The decorative space also contrasts with the Old Woman's empty black eyes.