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Gustave Moreau's "La Vie de l'humanit": Orpheus in the Context of Religious Syncretism,

Universal Histories, and Occultism


Author(s): Dorothy M. Kosinski
Source: Art Journal, Vol. 46, No. 1, Mysticism and Occultism in Modern Art (Spring, 1987),
pp. 9-14
Published by: College Art Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/776837
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Vie de
Gustave Moreau's "La
in the
l'humanite":
Orpheus
Context of Religious
Syncretism
UniversalHistories,
and
Occultism

By Dorothy M. Kosinski

he figureof Orpheusdominatesthe dating from the beginning and the other

work of Gustave Moreau.' La Vie


de l'humanith (Fig. 1) is paradigmatic
of Moreau's aesthetic: the significance
of Orpheus and the mingling of pagan
myth and Biblical story are typical both
of the artist's fascination with the
priestly poet-initiate and of his preoccupation with religious and cultural syncretism.
This painting, however, reflects more
than an individual artist's obsession with
the orphic mysteries. It is a manifestation of a broad intellectual and philosophical current in the nineteenth century that generated universal histories,
palingenetic theories, world mythographies, syncretic studies of religions, and
an enthusiasm for the occult and mysticism. Myths and legends were valued as
the keys not only to reveal past cultures,
but also to understand the current direction of society, and even to predict the
future of mankind-the bases then of
broad philosophical systems. There was
an intoxication with the idea of an initial
golden age of civilization. In search for
the matrix of civilization, philologists
examined the origins of language, literature, and religions of cultures past and
present. Linguists traced the development of language, positing an original
era of communication involving the
exchange of uncorrupted forms. The
traditional rigid boundaries separating
the Judaeo-Christian tradition from the
Greco-Roman pantheon and from Eastern religions softened, as historians of
religion sought for a universalderivation
of all sacred doctrines. Symbolism partakes of this generally syncretic appreciation of cultural history, myth, religion, and language.
This spirit of cultural syncretism is
embodied in two seminal works, one

from the end of the century. Georg


Friedrich Creuzer's Symbolik und
Mythologie der alten V6lker, first published in 1810-12, is a vast syncretic
study of world religions. Orpheus, in his
roles as initiate in Eastern mysteries,
priest of the Dionysian cults, bringer of
civilization to Greece, is an important
figure in Creuzer's work, linking the
esoteric traditions of East and West, and
confirming thereby the author's central
theory that there exists a common
source for all of man's development (an
evolution envisaged as essentially spiritual or religious). Edouard Schur6's
Grands Initibs, first published in 1889,
is a highly influential Theosophical text
that celebrates Rama, Krishna,
Hermes, Moses, Pythagoras, Orpheus,
Plato, Christ, and Buddha as prophetsof
a single truth. Like Creuzer, Schur
claims Orpheus as the great hierophant,
priest of Dionysian mysteries who brings
to Greece the truths of sacred Egypt.
A number of specific parallels exist
between Moreau's Vie de l'humanitM
and literary works or theoretical texts by
the syncretist historians and occultist
philosophers of the nineteenth century.
For instance, several compositional, thematic, and iconographic elements are
common to the painting and to works by
the mystic philosopherand writer Pierre
Simon Ballanche, the philosopher and
painter Paul Marc Chenavard, and the
mystics and occultists Eliphas Levi,
Jos6phin P61adan,and Papus. The most
significant points include the central
importance of Orpheus, the juxtaposition of pagan myth and Biblical story
(specifically the myth of Orpheus and
passages from Genesis), the prominence
of the redemptive Christ, a cyclical pattern for mankind's development-most

frequentlyperceivedas a degenerationor
negative unfolding-and a system of parallels between these ages of mankindand
the stages of the life of the individual.
oreau's paintinghas the imposing
appearance of an altar, the ten
images surrounded and unified by a
heavy gilt frame. The sequence of the
panels-nine rectangular images arranged in three rows of three panels
each, surmounted by the semicircular
lunette with the image of Christimplies a cyclical movement of history, a
disintegration redeemed by the victory
of the greatest initiate, the Resurrection
of Christ. The top row depicts Adam
and Eve: The Age of Gold-"Prayer,
"Ecstasy," and "Sleep"; the middle row
Orpheus: The Age of Silver--"Inspiration," "Song," and "Tears" (Figs. 2,3,
and 4); the bottom row Cain and Abel:
The Age of Iron-"Work," "Rest," and
"Death." The Greek myth of Orpehus
is, thus, sandwiched between two stories
from Genesis.
Moreau's own commentary on the
work focuses on the complex interrelationships of the panels. The painting is
intended to present the stages of mankind's development (golden age, silver
age, iron age) and the growth of the
individual (childhood, youth, maturity).
It is arranged, moreover, according to
the cycle of the day (morning, noon,
evening). Moreau also delineates more
subtle progressions:levels of religious or
spiritual concentration (prayer, ecstasy,
sleep), of artistic effort (inspiration,
song, tears), and of productive labor
(work, rest, death).
The development and increasing sophistication of mankind, the movement
from primitive to civilized state, is
viewed as a gradual deterioration, a fall

Spring 1987

Fig. 2

Fig. 3
Fig. 1 Gustave Moreau, La Vie de l'humanite, 1886, oil on wood, nine panels,
each: 33.5 x 25.5 cm; lunette, 37 x 94 cm. Paris, Mus6e Gustave Moreau.
Fig. 2 Gustave Moreau, "Le matin, L'inspiration,"panel from La Vie de
l'humanite.
Fig. 3 Gustave Moreau, "Le midi, Le chant," panel from La Vie de l'humanite.
Fig. 4 Gustave Moreau, "Le soir, Les larmes," panel from La Vie de l'Humanite.
from grace, a corruption of innocence.
The sequence within the vertical columns expresses this process of degeneration: from prayer to inspiration to work;
from ecstasy to song to rest; from sleep
to tears to death. Indeed, a loss of Paradise may be seen as the overridingtheme
of the nine panels, connecting the Biblical and mythical stories: Adam and Eve
are compelled to leave Paradise; Orpheus' serene world is shattered by his
loss of Eurydice-he loses the transforming power of his music and ultimately his own life as punishmentfor his
10

Art Journal

untimely revelation of the mysteries or


transgressionof divine rules; Cain stains
the earthly paradise with the murder of
his brother Abel. Unifying all is sin
itself: Original Sin, Orpheus' glance
back at Eurydice, Cain's murder of
Abel.
Between the Paradise of first man and
the corrupt world of societal man,
Orpheus represents the incipient stages
of civilization. Indeed, the central panel
of the entire work presents the Apolline
Orpheus bathed in the brilliant sunlight
of midday, singing and playing his lyre,

Fig. 4

attended by his muse, surrounded by


becalmed beasts and flourishing trees,
enchanting all by the power of his music.
Classical mythology is filled with the
embodiments of the beginnings of civilization, the harbingers of knowledge and
art: Prometheus, Daedalus, Hephaistos,
as well as Orpheus. Moreau specifically
acknowledges the appropriateness of
pagan mythology to represent the beginnings of civilization: "Intelligence and
poetry are much better personified in
these whole epochs of art and imagination (pagan antiquity) than in the Bible,
steeped as it is in feeling and religiousness."2 The artist's commentary, however, does not providea specific explanation for the source of his inclusion of
Orpheusin this otherwise Christian context.3
An obvious parallel to and likely
source for Moreau's use of Orpheus in a
Biblical context is the frequent depiction
of Orpheus in Early Christian art. Artists in the early Christian period
exploited the parallel between the magic
of Orpheus' music and the calming
effect of the Divine Word and perceived
in the image of Orpheus among the
beasts an analogy to Christ surrounded
by his flock.4In the generally syncretic
atmosphere of the dying days of paganism, and especially in the context of the
correspondences between Orphism and
Christianity, the lyre-playing Orpheus
among the becalmed animals was frequently depicted in catacombs, on sarcophagi, and in other contexts as well.
That the excavations of the catacombs during the latter half of the nineteenth century were widely known and
well documented makes it likely that
Moreau was aware of this tradition. He
was probably familiar with the famous
image of Orpheus from the ceiling of the
catacomb of Domitilla' (Fig. 5). This
painting is a clear precedent for the
depiction of Orpheus taming the animals in the center of a Christian iconographic scheme. In a central octagonal,
the lyre-playing Orpheus, clearly recognizeable by his Phrygian attire, sits
among various animals, flanked by
trees. Eight smaller scenes encircle this
central image: four pastoral settings
(two with rams, two with bulls) alternate with four Biblical subjects (Moses
drawing water from a rock, Daniel as
Orant between two lions, Christ raising
Lazarus, David with his slingshot). The
commentary that accompanies this
image in P.R. Garucci's Storia della
arte cristiana nei primi otto secoli della
chiesa (1873) identifies Christ as the
new, the real Orpheus:"Christ, the nonfabulous Orpheus, truly he led man
from animal existence to a life of reason
and taught him the way of virtue and
happiness."6 This statement is conso-

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:::: ::::::-:i`:1?-:-:;:;:::-:i:;::-:-_:':-:-

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Fig. 5 "Orpheus,"3rd century, fresco.


Rome, ceiling of the Catacomb of
Domitilla.
nant with the syncretism of the universalist historians, who viewed Orpheus as
one of a succession of initiates culminating in Christ. Moreau, however, was
probably interested less in a specific
compositional model than in the correspondence between the intellectual syncretism of the nineteenth century and
the religious syncretism of the Early
Christian period. Thus it is important to
examine how the painting manifests this
broad intellectual current of the period
and to analyze specific elements that it
shares with the works and theories of
universal historians, mythographers of
world religions, and occultists.

n earliermanifestationof this syn-

cretism-and a highly influential


one-is Eugene Delacroix's cycle of
paintings executed between 1838 and
1847 for the Library of the Palais Bourbon in Paris (Fig. 6). Orpheus is represented there as instituting civilization, a
level in man's education or initiation.
This movement towards sophistication
is, however, interpretedas a gradual loss
of purity leading ultimately to man's
fall. Delacroix's work may well be a
source for Moreau's notion of Orpheus'
role in the degenerative movement of
history.
One may discern in Delacroix's
work-as well as in Moreau's-the
influence of Giovanni Battista Vico's
cyclical theory of history. In his Scienza
nuova (1744) Vico posited a succession
of constantly repeating cycles. His philosophy was humanistic. Humanity, he
believed, creates its institutions: language, religion, mythology, and society
are products of man's will. And all
man's creations are subject to historical
analysis. Vico's Scienza nuova had
widespread impact on the intellectual
circles of the nineteenth century. His
influence is reflected in the works of
Ballanche, Edgar Quinet, Jules Michelet, Chenavard, and Philippe Benjamin

Buchez, especially in their concepts of a


universal history; their synthesis of language, myth, and religion, as well as
their belief in a spiritual center to man's
existence and development.7
Pierre Simon Ballanche's "Orpheus,"
written in 1827 and published in 1830, is
the only completed portion of La Palingenbsie sociale ou thbodicee de l'histoire.8This ramblingepic, characterized
by a lofty if confused ambition to ascertain the truth of history, the meaning of
religion, and the significance of man in
the universe, combines religion, mythology, philology, philosophy, and occultism. Ballanche espoused a theory of
palingenesis, a concept of evolution
through cycles or stages of development.
Although focused on a conventional
Christian notion of Fall and Redemption, this cyclical vision of history
involves, as well, a belief in reincarnation or metempsychosis. Mankind
evolves in a series of stages that parallel
the biological sequence of youth, maturity, and death. Mankind struggles
through eternally repeated cycles of fall
and expiation, test and redemption,until
he reattains a state of perfection, the
perfect unity of Adam, the primordial
Androgyne. This arduous evolution
towards the ideal of perfect unity takes
place through the ascension of what
Ballanche terms the "plebeian principle."'9In each plebeian age, an initiate
reveals a higher wisdom that overwhelms the established, traditional patrician law. Despite his creative syncretism, Ballanche's philosophy of social
palingenesis functions within the perimeters of Christian or Catholic doctrine:
Christ is the supreme initiate, Christianity is the last step before perfection, and
the truths of all earlier religions are
contained within Christianity."
Ballanche's "Orpheus" spans fifteen
centuries of history but is focused primarily on the history of Rome. The
narrative involves stories within stories:
the blind bard, Thamyris, and the Egyptian priests explain Aeneas' arrival in
Italy to King Evander of Latium. A
major theme here, as with the comparative mythographers, is the transmission
of sacred truths from the East via Egypt
to Greece. The story of Orpheus is
folded into this complex narrative. Ballanche imaginatively, even wildly, combines myth, legend, and historical fact
without regard for chronology, original
content, or meaning. He is interested
less in the traditional mythological figure of Orpheus than in his role as initiate, revealer of truth, instrument of
man's evolution from one palingenetic
stage to another. In the prologue Ballanche explains that Orpheus is an
abstraction, a powerful symbolic expression of the traditions of antiquity." This
Spring 1987

11

4200 B.C.,reaches its halfway point and


zenith with the birth of Christ, and
deteriorates to a final destruction in A.D.
4200. These 8,400 years are derived
from a 1:100 comparative ratio with an
individual's ideal lifespan of 84 years.
gll This
4
cycle is divided into four phases:
Adam and Eve to the Tower of Babel;
the Tower of Babel to the birth of
Christ; the birth of Christ to the rise of
America; and the rise of America to the
end of civilization in 4200. Each of these
broad cultural, religious, and societal
was to be embodied in the decoravient
stages
6
Fig. Eugene Delacroix, Orphke
of
the four great piers of the Pantion
et
encore
Grecs
les
sauvages
policer
focus of each scheme was a
The
theon.
la
leur enseigner les arts de paix,
initiate, a concept like Balof
single
great
oil
mural.
Paris,
1838-1847,
Library
lanche's
"spontaneousmen."" The first
the Palais Bourbon.
phase was identified as the Age of Gold
manipulation of myth is entirely consis- (religion, centered on the figure of
tent with Ballanche's concern with the Moses); the second was the Age of Sil"poetry of thought,"l2 his concepts that ver (poetry and Homer); the third the
"religion is an allegorical history of Age of Bronze (philosophy and Aristotnature" and that "mythology is a con- le); the fourth the Age of Iron (science
densed history.""13Ballanche's use of and Galileo). The similarity between
Orpheus as a symbolic entity parallels Chenavard's scheme and Moreau's sysMoreau's interpretationof Orpheus and tem of analogies in La Vie d'humanite"
pagan mythology in general as the is clear.
Chenavard also conceived two epic
appropriate representation for the
dawnings of civilization.
poems with the theme of Orpheus, one
Paul Marc Chenavard's series of proposedin outline to his friend Laprade
paintings and sculpture proposed in in 1839 and the second sketched out
1848 for the Pantheon in Paris, as well towards the end of his life. Like Balas his outlines for two epic poems, share lanche, Chenavard discovered in Orimportant characteristics with Bal- pheus a profound expression of his hislanche's "Orpheus" and Moreau's Vie torical philosophy. He planned to
de l'humanite: the central symbolic role explore the four phases of history
of Orpheus, religious syncretism, a through the story of the relationship of
degenerative cyclical history, and a sys- Orpheus and Eurydice. In the first
tem of analogies between stages of man- stage, Orpheus is in Egypt, where he
kind's development and the growth of begins architecture, building a temple to
the individual.
the goddess Psyche. The second stage
Chenavard'sill-fated programfor the unfolds in Greece as Orpheus honors
Pantheon was to have consisted of 111 Psyche in her human form, Eurydice,
painted panels, 5 mosaics, 6 statues, and with his sculpture. In the third phase,
a monument to universal religion. The Eurydice is revived as the Virgin Mary
program, which would have comprised through the power of Orpheus' music.
scenes both from the Old and New Tes- This time Orpheus expresses his love
taments and from ancient and modern through painting. In the final stage,
history (including vignettes from the Orpheus (the ideal) is destroyed by his
ancient Near East, Greece, Rome, the brother, Typhon (the embodiment of
Middle Ages, the rise of Islam, the materialism). Chenavard traces his reliCrusades, the Renaissance, the expan- gious-artistic ages within the context of
sion of America and episodes from the the myth of Orpheus, manipulating
lives of Luther, Voltaire, and Napo- myth and history with a freedom simileon), embodies the concept of the ency- lar, once again, to the creative invention
clopedic epic of modern man. The of Ballanche.16
monument to universal religion was a
The interest in esoteric religions and
symbolic amalgam of the Brahminic occult philosophies may be compared to
cow, the Persian gryphon, the Chaldean the efforts of the universal historians
Sphinx, the Egyptian Bark of the Dead, and syncretic mythographers to link
the Arc of the Convenant, all sur- past and present, to absorb the variety of
mounted by the Chalice of the Last man's history into a single unifying
Supper. This sculpture, which was to truth. The exclusive doctrines of convenhave been executed in granite and mar- tional religions were rejected in favor of
ble, was conceived as an altar for all the a syncretic vision embracing a succespeoples of the world14(Fig. 7).
sion of multiple revelations through cenChenavard'sgloomy theory of history turies. Typically, Orpheus was the
is precise. Time begins with the year focus, the metaphoric key in these occult
12

Art Journal

schemes. It is not at all surprising that


many of the major historians and
mythographers, including Quinet,
Michelet, and Alfred Maury, studied
and wrote extensively on esoteric religions and magic.
The Abbe Alphonse Louis Constant,
better known as Eliphas Levi, was one of
the most colorful and prominent occultists. His extensive writings reveal his
youthful training towards the priesthood, his interest in Fourierisme and
other socialist-mystical movements, as
well as his syncretist religious philosophy.17He writes: "All the universe is but
one sublime temple, having but one
king, one sun, and one God." Orpheus,
ancestor of Plato, Pythagoras, the Alexandrians, and Pascalis Martines and his
disciples, plays an important role in the
revelation of esoteric truth, the unifying
principle of Levi's cosmology. Levi combines pagan myth and Biblical tale. For
example, in "Magie en grace," a chapter
in Histoire de la magie (1860), Levi
conflates Medea's murderof her brother
with Cain's fratricide. In Clef des
grands mysteres (1861), Adam and Eve
and Cain and Abel are manipulated as
symbols of different sides of the human
personality or psyche. Levi synthesizes
all religions, using myth and Bible
interchangeably to inform his occult
philosophy.19

The mystical philosophy of Josephin


P6ladan, who adopted the title Sair
Merodack to emphasize his supposed
descent from that Assyrian king, was
profoundly influenced by Eliphas Levi.
Between 1892 and 1896 P6ladan organized the Salons Rose + Croix Catholique, which constituted a crucial link
between the occultist milieu and Symbolist artists and writers. His Rose +
Croix Esthktique, published in conjunction with the first exhibition, was an
especially powerful articulation of the
concept of art as religion, artist as priest.
PNladanwas, moreover,a prolificwriter,
whose works are permeated with the
occultist's typical preoccupation with
syncretism.2 Invariably PNladan links
paganism and Christianity, establishing
a succession of great philosophers or
initiates (including, of course, Orpheus)
who reveal a single truth. This fluid
syncretism characterizes his play La
Terre d'Orphbe.This work, which exists
only in manuscript outlines, was
intended as the third part of a trilogy
entitled Les Idkes et les formes. The
other two sections of this trilogy were
entitled La Terre du Sphinx (Egypte)
(1900) and La Terre du Christ (Palestine) (1901).21 P61ladancombines the
biblical story of Cain and Abel with the
myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In one
version of La Terre d'Orphbe, Jubal
(named in Genesis 4:22 as one of Cain's

Fig. 7 Paul Marc Chenavard, La philosophie de l'Histoire, c. 1848, oil on canvas,


303 x 380 cm. Lyon, Mus6e des Beaux-Arts.

interest in mysticism. It is not surprising


then that the multivalent figure of
Orpheus-poet, musician, initiate, magician, heroic intruder in Hades,
lamenting lover, victim of Dionysian
fury, but especially harbinger of civilization, archetypal artist, leader of cults,
and priest-should play a crucial role in
this syncretic intellectual environment.
The syncretic attitude is evident in
the mixture of pagan and Christian
imagery that enriches not only Moreau's
work but that of Puvis de Chavannes,
Redon, and many others. Gauguin's
interest in the devout peasantry of Brittany and especially his conflation of
Tahitian myth and Christian subjects
are other expressions of this syncreticism. The interest in Hinduism shared
by Redon and Mallarm6 reflects a profound curiosity in non-Western religions. And a more general fascination
with alternative religions, the occult,
and theosophy can be found in the
eccentric mysticism of the Nabis or Sar
P6ladan's Rosicrucians. This all-encompassing vision of man's history and
development may be considered a dominant characteristic of the intellectual
fabric of both Romanticism and Symbolism, an importanttheme in the works
of artists from Delacroix to Rodin.
Indeed, such epic works as Rodin's
Gates of Hell (1880-1917), Gauguin's
Who Are We? Where Do We Come
From? WhereAre We Going? (1897), or
Munch's more psychologically oriented
painting, The Dance of Death (18991900), reflect this utopian search for
universal truths.

own descendantsand ancestor of all who Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Lao-Tze,


play the lyre and flute) is Cain's victim. Buddha, Pythagoras, and many other
P61adan conflates biblical and pagan initiates, all revealing a universal,
martyrdoms by substituting the musi- alchemical truth.23Like the mythogracian Jubal for the traditional victim, phers and universal historians, Papus
Abel. Pl1adan's manipulation of the emphasizes the role of the East in this
basic story from Genesis is even more process of initiation. His succession of
extensive in another version of his play. cycles of revelation and reincarnation is
Noah's descendant, Japheth's son Tubal resolved ultimately with the reintegra(easily confused with Cain's descendant tion of the individual with the collective
Tubal-Cain, ancestor of all metalwork- being, the oneness of Adam, the primorers), is pitted against Hebel (Abel). The dial Androgyne.24 Moreover, Papus
brothers' conflict is a result of their bases his historical process on what he Notes
1 The catalogue raisonnee, Pierre-Louis Maattentions to the same woman, Eurydi- calls a "method of analogies," by which
thieu, Gustave Moreau, Boston, 1876, includes
ce. Eurydice is a follower of Orpheus, parallels between the cycle of the single
thirteen finished works with the subject of
only
the hierophant who returns from his day and the seasonal cycle of the year
Orpheus.
Orpheus, however, is the subject of
dawn
is
the
are
established.25
initiation in Crete to bring sacred truth
Hence,
numerous drawings, watercolors, sketches, and
to Thrace. Finally, Eurydice falls victim springtime of the day, midday is sumpaintings in the Musee Gustave Moreau,
to a band of priestesses who betray mer, dusk is autumn, and night is winParis.
to
dawn
is
ter.
and
reesFurthermore,
compared
Orpheus' Apolline teachings
2 "L'intelligence et la poesie sont bien mieux
tablish human sacrifice and other for- the first quarter of the moon, day to the
personnifiees dans ces epoques tout entieres
bidden acts. As if in concession to the second quarter, evening to the third
d'art et d'imagination (l'antiquit6 pai'enne)que
traditional myth, Pl1adan's Orpheus quarter, and night to the full moon. This
dans la bible, toute de sentiments et de religioattempts to retrive Eurydice from death integration of cycles of day, month, and
site." In L'Assembleur de
Ecrits combut is himself a victim of the Maenads.
year is comparable to the cyclical theode Gustave Moreau,roves:
ed. Pierre-Louis
plets
and
of
universal
histories
ries
the
or
Gerard
be
synEncausse,
may
Papus,
Mathieu, Fontfroide, 1984, p. 104.
considered the most important occultist cretic studies of world religions as well
of the 1880s and 1890s. His writings are as to basic compositional and concep3 Earlier scholarly literature on Moreau does not
attempt to explain the curious juxtaposition of
permeated with the same themes that tual elements of Moreau's Vie de
dominate the works of Moreau and Eli- l'humanite.
mythological legend and Christian story in the
painting. Ary Renan, "Gustave Moreau," Parphas Levi, as well as the works of his
is, 1900, barely makes reference to the work.
fellow Lyon natives Ballanche, Chenavoreau's painting,then, is consoThe Abbe Loisel, L'Inspiration chretienne du
His "Vie de Christ,"
nant with a significant intellecard, and P61adan.22
peintre Gustave Moreau, Paris, 1912, p. 7, in
conceived as a response to the positivist tual phenomenon in the nineteenth cenhis general insistence on the importance of
studies of David Friedrich Strauss and tury involving a desire to create broad,
Christian themes in Moreau's oeuvre, seems
of
man's
dea
advocates
Joseph-Ernest Renan,
syn- all-encompassing systems
to ignore the unorthodoxinclusion
intentionally
cretic view of religions. Christ is the velopment-past, present, future. This
of Orpheus in the context of Genesis. Mathieu
culmination in a series of cycles of reve- impulse is manifested in the prolifera(cited n. 1), p. 167, who cites the Bible and
lation. Orpheus, moreover, is important tion of universal histories and synthetic
Hesoid's Works and Days as sources for the
in a spiritual hierarchy that includes world mythographies as well as the

Spring1987

13

work, acknowledges the "syncretic order" of


the composition. Jean Paladilhe, Gustave
Moreau, Paris, 1971, p. 37, and Julius Kaplan,
Gustave Moreau, exh. cat., Los Angeles, Los
Angeles County Museum of Art, 1974, p. 44,
stress the intellectual coherence of the unification of sacred and profane themes.
4 Andre Boulanger, Orphee-Rapports
de
l'Orphisme et du Christianisme, Paris, 1925,
pp. 157-163.
5 This fresco was included in Antonio Bosio,
Roma sotteranea, Rome, 1632, p. 239. It was
frequently illustrated during the nineteenth
century. It is number CLXXII bis, 645a in
A.L. Millin's reedition of the 1811 Galerie
mythique, Nouvelle Galerie mythique, Paris,
1859, which included a part of Guigniaut's
translation of Creuzer's Symbolik and a commentary on the relationship between art and
religion by Alfred Maury; Fig. 230 in Ren6
M6nard, La Mythologie dans l'art ancien et
moderne, Paris, 1878; and Fig. 35 in Andr6
P6rat6, L'Archbologie chr~tienne, Paris, 1892,
p. 66.
6 "Cristo, il non favoloso Orfeo, veramente
richiam6 l'uomo dalla vita animalesca ad una
vita ragionevole e gl' insegn6 la via della virtiue
della felicitY." See: P.R. Garucci, Storia
dell'arte cristiana, Prato, 1873, vol. ii, p. 29,
tav. 25.

13 Ibid., Vol. 4, p. 6. Ballanche claims that "la


religion est l'histoire all6gorique de la nature."
He also states: "La mythologie est une histoire
condens6e."
14 See: Sloane, "Chenavard," pp. 246-50, and
Chenavard, especially pp. 44-60 (both cited
n.9). Chenavard'scommission was a product of
the liberal government installed in 1848. By
1852, under the encouragement of the conservative government of Napoleon III, the Pantheon was returned to the Church. Of course,
Chenavard's pantheistic, anticlerical program
was canceled. Neither the conservativesnor the
liberals viewed the paintings merely as a decorative scheme; both factions perceived the
political and philosophical implications of the
plan. Indeed, Chenavard and some of the most
important members of his circle were actively
involved in liberal politics.
15 Concerning his concept of "hommes spontan6s," see: Ballanche, Prolegomenes pour
Orphie, in Oeuvres Complktes(cited n. 8), Vol.
4, p. 6.
16 See: Sloane, Chenavard (cited n. 9), chapter iv,
"Theory of History," pp. 70-71, 81-83. See
also: Herbert J. Hunt, The Epic in NineteenthCentury France, Oxford, 1941.

17 Eliphas L6vi's works include: Bible de la


liberth, Paris, 1841; Doctrines religieuses et
sociales, Paris, 1841; La Mare de dieu, Paris,
7 See George L. Hersey, "Delacroix's Imagery in
1844; Des origines cabalistiques du christianthe Palais Bourbon Library," Journal of the
isme, De la kabbale considbrbecomme source
de tous les dogmes, Paris, 1855; Dogme et
Warburgand Courtauld Institutes, 31 (1968)
rituel de la haute magie, Paris, 1856; Histoire
pp. 383-403. Michelet translated La Scienza
nuova in 1827.
de la magie, Paris, 1860; La Clef des grands
mysteres, Paris, 1861; Fables et symboles en
8 Ballanche's theories are elaborated in baffling
occulte, Paris, 1862; La Science
philosophie
and confused form throughout his works:
des esprits, Paris, 1865; Le Livre des splenEssais de palingMnksiesocial; Essais sur les
deurs, Paris, 1868. Concerning L6vi, see: Frank
institutions sociales; La Vision d'Hibal, chef
Paul Bowman, Eliphas Lbvi: Visionnaire
d'un clan &cossais;and Paling?n4sie social ou
Romantique, Paris, 1969; Christopher McInThbodiche de l'Histoire. This last work,
tosh, Eliphas Lavi and the French Occult Reintended as the author's magnum opus, was to
vival, New York, 1974; Alain Mercier, Eliphas
have several parts: "Orph6e, Formule
Lavi et la pensbe magique au XIXbme siecle,
g6n6rale," "La Ville des expiations," and
Paris, 1974; Thomas A. Williams, Eliphas
"616gie."Only "Orph6e" was completed. See:
Lavi: Master of Occultism, University, AlabaPierre Simon Ballanche, Oeuvres compl&tes,
ma, 1975.
Paris, 1830.
18 L6vi, Fables et symboles (cited n. 17), "Six9 See: Albert Joseph George, Pierre Simon Balieme Grand Symbole, Le Temple de l'avenir,"
lanche, Precursor of Romanticism, Syracuse,
p. 467.
1945, pp. 96-97; Brian Juden, "Particularit6s
19
L6vi, La Clef (cited n. 17), p. 33.
du mythe d'Orph6e chez Ballanche," CAIEF,
congr~s, 24 juillet 1969, pp. 137-52; Joseph C. 20 PNladan'sworks include: La D&cadencelatine,
Sloane, French Painting between the Past and
1884-1906, 21 volumes; L'Amphithbatre des
the Present, Artists, Critics, and Traditions
sciences mortes, 1891-1911, 7 volumes; Les
from 1848 to 1870, Princeton, 1951; idem,
Idies et les formes, 1900-01; La Dicadence
"Paul Chenavard,"Art Bulletin, 33 (1951) pp.
isthetique, 1888-1910, c. seventeen volumes.
240-58; idem, Paul Marc Joseph Chenavard,
Concerning PNladan,see: Robert Pincus-WitArtist of 1848, Chapel Hill, 1962.
ten, Occult Symbolism in France: Josiphin
Pbladan and the Salon Rose + Croix, New
10 For a discussion of Ballanche's Christianity,
York, 1976.
see: Victor de Laprade, "Ballanche, sa vie et ses
6crits," M6moire, Lyon, Academie des 21 Josbphin P6ladan, "Projets de pieces de
Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts, Classe des
th6atre," Manuscript 13.204, Fonds P6ladan,
Lettres, 1850, tome 2, pp. 176-8.
Bibliothbquede l'Arsenal, Paris, These manuinclude five versions of the play Terre
scripts
11 See: Ballanche, Oeuvres Completes (cited n.
d'Orphbe, each differing somewhat in struc8), Vol. 3, pp. 90, 135, 136, 142 especially.
ture.
12 Ibid., p. 82. Ballanche speaks of"la po6sie de la
pens6e."

14

Art Journal

22 Lyon had been a center of occult and spiritist


learning since the Medieval and Renaissance
periods. In this regard, see: Paul Leutrat, La
Sorcellerie Lyonnaise, Paris, 1977. Concerning
Papus in particular and occultism in general,
see: Filiz Eda Burhan, "Vision and Visionaries:
Nineteenth-Century Psychological Theory, the
Occult Sciences, and the Formation of the
Symbolist Aesthetic in France" (Ph.D. diss.,
Princeton University, 1979); Alain Mercier,
Les Sources esoteriques et occultes de la poesie
symboliste, 1870-1914, Paris, 1969; Jean Pierrot, L'lImaginairedicadent, Paris, 1977.
23 Papus, "La Vie de Christ," Manuscript
5491.1.26, Fonds Papus, Biblioth~que Municipale, Lyon, p. 23. See also: "Alchimie," Manuscript 5491. I. 7, and "Alchimie au XIXe
siecle," Manuscript 5491, I. 2.
24 Papus, "Occultisme contemporaine," Manuscript 5491.1.17, Fonds Papus, Bibliothbque
Munipale, Lyon, p. 25: "Pour att6neur l'acte de
sa cr6ature, le Cr6ateur, utilisant le Temps et
I'Espace qui 6taient corollaires du plan physique, cr6a la Diff6rentiationde l'Etre coll6ctif:
chaque cellule d'Adam devint un etre humain
individuel et ainsi devint le Principe de la vie
universelle et da la forme plastique: Eve.
L'Homme dfit, des lors, 6purer les principes
inf6rieurs qu'il avait ajout6 A sa nature, par la
souffrance, le r6signation aux epreuves et
l'abandon de sa volont6 entre les mains de son
Cr6ateur. Les r6incarnationsfurent le principal
instrument de salut et, comme tous les hommes
sont les cellules d'un meme Etre, le salut individuel ne sera total que lorsque le salut collectif
sera accompli."
25 Papus, "L'Analogie," Manuscript 5491.1.3,
Fonds Papus, Bibliotheque Municipale, Lyon.

Dorothy M. Kosinski received her


Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts in
1985. Her most recent publication is
"Orpheus-das Bild des Kiinstlers bei
Gustave Moreau, " in the catalogue,
Gustave Moreau, Kunsthaus, Zurich,
1986. She is currently Curator of The
Douglas Cooper Collection.