Fernand Khnopff (Belgian, 1858-1921)
oil on panel
18 x 7.3cm (7 1/16 x 2 7/8in).Painted circa 1906
'Magicienne depicts a strong woman invested with unearthly powers, standing alone in the narrow space, a format favoured by the artist. Dressed in rich robes and adorned with heavy jewellery she stands immobile and implacable. Khnopff presents her in a typically elaborate and highly decorative manner, her regal air perhaps explaining her previous misidentification as a Queen.
The formative influences of Delacroix, Gustave Moreau and the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Rossetti and Burne-Jones, and the artist's love of Symbolist poetry and Decadent literature are suffused through the depiction of theMagicienne. She represents an ideology of doubling, simultaneously close and far away, blurred and precise, strong and fragile. Further, Khnopff seems to be paying tribute to his personal philosophy On ne a que soi (one only has oneself), making this work both introspective and out of reach.
In the early 1970s Magicienne was acquired by the Galleria dei Bibliofili in Milan, founded by Piero Fornasetti, one of the most innovative designers of the twentieth century. Along with his friend Gio Ponti, Fornasetti revolutionised interior design and was instrumental in making Italian design famous all over the world. It passed from Bibliofili to Philippe Daverio, a professor and art critic well known in Italy for his original and highly popular TV art programmes. Daverio then gifted the painting to the renowned architect, painter and designer Massimo Scolari.'
Up for auction at Bonham's Impressionist and Modern Art sale on February 5, 2013.