Mellery, Xavier - La Poverella
Type of Spiritual Experience
Marc Lambrechts, Impressionism to Symbolism: The Belgian Avant Garde 1880-1900
This drawing was first exhibited in 1889. The subject is the hall of Mellery's parents' home (subsequently demolished in 1898), which was depicted by Mellery on several occasions from a number of different viewpoints. The large sculpture, La Poverella, by his friend Paul de Vigne (1843-1901) appears in several works. The drawing, no matter how hallucinatory, might appear at first sight to be a mere study of the effects of light. Whereas the light source in many of his works cannot be identified, in this case it clearly emanates from behind La Poverella, whose location seems to have been deliberately chosen to produce the focus for the most intense area of tonal contrast. The result is direct, emphatic, spectacular and theatrical.
L'Art moderne wrote in 1889: '[These drawings] only show empty interiors, yet they are haunted by something that lives'.
In 1895, when the drawing was exhibited again, the same periodical commented: 'The soul of things? There it is flowing from the walls, at once pensive and familiar. For a moment this is a hallway filled with plaster casts and illuminated by a lamp. But the light is waiting. Something is watching. There is a mysterious voice in thse shadows and highlights.'
The everyday surroundings of the familiar corridor are thus transformed into a place between concrete reality and dream - a zone of transition to a reality that resides behind the visible, behind the appearance of things. And in the process they reveal the mystery of the world. It is no mere chance that the light shines from behind La Poverella's head: her eyes are closed, motionless and cut off from the visible. Her gaze is instead direct inwards, towards dreams and secrets.