Delville, Jean - Portrait of Mrs. Stuart Merrill
Type of Spiritual Experience
One of the most striking drawings that Delville produced is his Portrait of Mrs. Stuart Merrill. This drawing was executed in chalks in 1892. Mrs Merrill is having a spiritual experience – or as the books say ‘she is in a trance Her radiating red-orange hair combines with the fluid light of her aura’. Red hair has a symbolic meaning.
There is a lot of very very inaccurate drivel written about this painting – quote “The hot colours which surround Mrs. Merrill’s head appear to allude to the earthly fires of passion and sensuality”. No they don’t, they are symbolic.
Stuart Merrill was a Symbolist poet who published his works in Paris and Brussels. He had a house near to the Delvilles in Forest at that time. His son Olivier adds that “the young Mrs Merrill-Rion” was a Belgian, and that Delville was “struck by her strange beauty”. So he probably loved her
The painting was not bought by the Merrills, so this was not intended as a portrait, it was intended to be a record of her in trance. It remained with the Delvilles until it was sold to a Californian private collector in the late 1960s. In 1998, it was acquired by the Brussels Museum of Fine Arts, and is now on display to the public.
A description of the experience