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The Franco-Prussian War and Cosmological Symbolism in Odilon Redon's "Noirs"

Author(s): Barbara Larson


Source: Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 25, No. 50 (2004), pp. 127-138
Published by: IRSA s.c.
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BARBARA LARSON

The Franco-PrussianWarand Cosmological Symbolism


in Odilon Redon's Noirs

Odilon Redon found inspirationfor his fantastic charcoals


and lithographsin transformationsin scientificfields in the second half of the nineteenth century.Developments in evolutionary theory, microbiology,psychology and astronomy provided
fertile terrainfor an artist drawn to the powerfulforces of the
invisibleworld and their implicationswhere humanitywas concerned. Astrophysics, based on a dynamic and sometimes
unpredictablecosmos, emerged as a new field after 1860 and
replaced the old astronomy which was steeped in Laplace's
vision of a clockworkuniverse. The new revelationsof astronomy engaged Redon's fatalisticspeculations on man's declining
sense of control over his place in the naturalorder of things.
The artist's darkspiritedapproach was not unique: after the
loss of the Franco-Prussian War early in 1871, cultural discourses that emerged from scientific fields in France tended
towards the morbidas much as the celebratoryas the defeated
nation grappled with an unfamiliar sense of diminished
strength. With the new astronomy, powerful new telescopes
were revealing the existence of unknown stars, nebulae and
intensivelyactive cosmic phenomena so memorablyencapsulated in Van Gogh's StarryNight of 1889 that made earth (and
man) seem ever more humble and minute. In what now
seemed to be an expanding universe with randomlyshooting
meteors and comets many times the size of our own planet,

earthwas but a vulnerablespeck, and most possibly-even the


scientists agreed-subject to a sudden and cataclysmic end.
In light of rapid developments in astronomy after 1860,
never since the age of Copernicus did man's position seem so
diminished. Stars and asteroids seemed to multiply by the
dozen. Meteorologicalcuriosities, comets, spiral nebulae and
the passage of planets were observed and upcoming cosmological events reported to the public. Newly detailed maps of
planets were drawnup, and an international"cartedu ciel" project initiatedin 1887 was spearheaded by the Pauland Prosper
Henry brothers at the Paris observatory.1Scientific popularizers of the period capitalized on the idea of man's minute existence in a vast universe. Typicalare these words written by
Amadee Guilleminin his Le Ciel in 1877: "Chainedto the surface of the earth, intelligent atom on a grain of sand lost in
space, man inventstechnology that multipliesby 100 the penetration of knowledge; he probes the profound abyss, judges
the dimensions of the visible universe and counts the many
stars that populate the terribleexpansion of space" [Fig. 1].2
Redon began to explore the sidereal worldin the 1870s. By
the time of his lithographicprint"Germination"
fromthe series
In the Dream of 1879 some 20,000 stars were known to exist
[Fig. 2]. In "Germination"
barelyvisible planets or stars as well
as larger bodies, including an enormous dark orb, converge
127

BARBARA
LARSON

1) <<The
Sky over Paris,,, color lithograph (from:A. Guillemin, Le Ciel: notions 6l6mentaires d'astronomie physique,

Paris, 1877).

with germinatingcells that culminate in a fullydeveloped floating head, as Redon explores the evolution of the universe and
life itself. In this work he recreates an active, unfolding universe. The artistpositions the viewer in the midst of a pulsating
field, a device which may well respond to the growing literature
on the "voyage sidereal" as a way of popularizingknowledge
about the universe. In the astronomer Camille Flammarion's
Les Etoiles, for example, the chapter on the contemplation of
the heavens begins, "Earthis forgotten with its miniscule and
ephemeral history. The sun itself, with its great solar system
falls back into the infinite night. Under the wing of stellar
comets we have taken flight towards the stars, the suns of
space."3 In Guillemin'sLe Ciel we are stationaryobservers, but
the cosmos's ongoing drama is enacted: "Aluminous globe
appears in the distance. Littleby little,it approaches-its great
circumferenceis over one hundredthousand leagues. Rapidly
rotating it passes in front of us, carried away by space with
twenty-fourtimes the rapidityof a cannon ball. This is Jupiter
circlingthe sky. The vertiginousorb would fly on foreverwere it
not for the attractionit has for the heavenly body of the sun..."4
withits eclipselikecentralorb surroundedby
"Germination",
flame-likeprojections,may also contain a reference to another
aspect of the emerging new astronomy: the birth of solar
physics, which was indebted to the development of spectroscopy and, in these earlyyears, eclipse studies. The invention
of spectroscopy in 1859 even more profoundlyaltered man's
128

2) Odilon Redon, <<Germination>,,


lithograph on tan wove
paper, from In the Dream, 1879. 27.3 x 19. 5 cm, The
Stickney Collection, 1920.1841, Chicago, The Art Institute
of Chicago. Photo: Museum.

previouslyheld belief in eternalcosmic truthsthan did telescopic observation. Spectroscopy broke down the light received
from a given heavenly body into a series of colored bands that
revealed the elements of which a star or planetwas composed.
It was used to study the physical structureand chemical substance of heavenly bodies. From this information,data about
temperature and age could be deduced, revolutionizingthe
seemed
study and understandingof the solar system. Variability

THE FRANCO-PRUSSIANWARAND COSMOLOGICALSYMBOLISMIN ODILONREDON'S NOIRS

to support the notion of uneven ages of planets and stars and


reinforceddynamic principals.Withthe advent of spectroscopy,
the study of solar eclipses showed promise in determininginformationabout the most importantof celestial bodies. Duringan
eclipse, the corona surroundingthe sun, which revealed solar
activity, could be observed. Pink projecting flames called
"prominences"could also be studied. Eclipse studies began in
earnest in 1868 and were also popularizedto a broadaudience.
In his Astronomie populaire (1879) Flammarionsummarized
recent investigations:"Thestudy of eclipses from 1868 on has
proven that around the sun an immense atmosphere of hydrogen boils ceaselessly in which the height of the flames varies
and in which metallic vapors can be detected. Throughthese
vapors spurts of materialfromthe center of the sun are thrown
Aroundthis ardent fire innumerableparticles cirintermittently.
culate carried away by the solar whirlwind.We are unable to
anticipatethe turbulentmovementthat incessantly moves about
on the stormysurface movementso formidablethatentiremasses bigger than the earth itself are displaced and reproduced
withinminutes!"5This account of the ceaselessly burning,ever
transformingsolar ball was part of the changing perception of
the universeonce thoughtto be so consistent. In "Germination"
the dramaticuneven light behind the black celestial body suggests the new informationon the activityof the sun revealed
throughthe study of solar eclipses.
Iconographically,the solar eclipse is an ageold portent of
impending doom and was revived as such in the work of
Redon and others immediatelyfollowing the loss of the war.6
The renewal of this symbol owes not only to scientific eclipse
studies in general but even more specifically to one eclipse in
particular:that of December 22,1870, which took place during
the last desolate days of the war,two days after the defeat of
Redon's own battalion of the Second Armyof the Loireat La
Monnaienear Tours.Awareness of this event was sensationalized when one of France's earliest solar physicists Jules
Janssen, convinced the Academy of Science of the importance of observing the eclipse from aloft, even while Pariswas
under siege by the Prussians. Following his appeal, the balloon the Volta was placed at his disposal. Janssen escaped
Prussian bullets and left Paris on December 2 heading south
on what would be his most famous scientific voyage. Redon's
"Sad Ascent", another lithographfrom In the Dream, with its
black celestial body hovering ominously over the rooftops of
Paris and melancholy balloonhead conflation, may be a combined reference to political disaster and Janssen's mission.
Balloons were used duringthe siege of Paristo fly militarypersonnel and mail out of Paris; to avoid detection they were
often launched at night, another possible reference in "Sad
Ascent". One of the most famous heroic moments of the war

3) c<Solareclipse of Dec. 22, 1870,,, wood engraving (from:


C. Flammarion,Astronomie populaire, Paris, 1879).

involved the flight of Gambetta, who flew out of Paris on


October 7, 1870 on his way to join the government of the
NationalDefense in Tours.
The eclipse of 1870 was widely reproduced [Fig. 3].
Flammarion,in Paris at the time, reported of this event on the
coldest day of the war,"birdsthat were singing grew silent and
hid. The temperature lowered two-and-a-half-degrees. For
a quarterof an hour there was absolute silence except for the
distant roarof the canon."7Redon, who often spoke of his love
for the sun, would certainlyhave known of this solar event.
The eclipse of 1870 is surely the source of Redon's
repeated images of a black sun, and it first appeared in his
work in 1871 in association with a despairing militaryfigure. In
his WomanWearinga Kepi,the female, who undoubtedly suggests Marianne, personification of France, stands before
a black sun with her head lowered [Fig. 4]. She wears bandages and the cap of Frenchmilitarymen. This combinationof
bandages and cap occurs throughout heroic post-war
imagery including sculptures and paintings specifically devoted to the infantrymenof Redon's own battalion [Fig. 5].
129

BARBARA
LARSON

graphite and
4) Odilon Redon, (<WomanWearing a K6pi>>,
gouache, 1871. Paris, Mus6e du Petit Palais. Photo
museum.

In Daumier's The Eclipse. Will it Be Total? of 1871,


a Prussian helmet blocks the light of freedom, which is, of
course, France [Fig. 6]. In 1871, the journal The Eclipse
changed its logo so that the sun was stamped withthe map of
France and the dark celestial body with three Prussian faces,
includingthat of Bismarck [Figs. 7, 8].
In his war-time journal Redon had often used the
metaphor of light for France in the days before the defeat,
"Franceis considered the flame of the world... one can't kill
the light."8in L'Anneeterrible or "The Awful Year"of 1871,
Victor Hugo would write, "The eclipse arrives and gives the
population a terrible shudder as though some obscure monster appears on the horizon..."9 Of the signing of the treaty
with Prussia, Hugo would pen from Bordeaux:"Oureclipse is
their dawn and our grave, their heaven."10
The darkorb in Redon's work has traditionallybeen traced
to the image of the "black sun" in Romantic literature.The
black sun is used, for example, as an abstract poetic reference
130

5) Francois Lix,(<TheSecond Armyof the Loire, 1870-71,,,


c. 1872. Location unknown. (From:Armand Dayot,
Linvasion, le sibge, la commune, Paris, c. 1890, p. 124).

in the writings of Nervalwhere he refers to "the black sun of


melancholy" ("El Desdicado"). Baudelaire had often evoked
nocturnalscenes and the contrast of light and dark. The sun
could be cruel or nourishingor treated as a dualityof rising or
setting on the horizon. The contradictoryphenomena of light
and dark recur often in Redon's favorite work by Baudelaire,
Les Fleursdu mal. The "blacksun" has biblicalorigins as well,
where it was used in Revelations as an apocalyptic sign; the
sun becomes "blackas sackcloth."

INODILONREDON'SNOIRS
WARANDCOSMOLOGICAL
SYMBOLISM
THEFRANCO-PRUSSIAN

6) Honor6 Daumier,((TheEclipse. Will it Be Total?,,,


lithograph (from:Actualit,s March 17, 1871). Photo:
Bibliothbque nationale de France, Paris.

Gautiertoo was interested in the "blacksun" and treated it


as a sign of the agony of the universe. He tied it to one of
Redon's favorite prints, Durer'sMelancholia, a copy of which
the artist kept on his studio wall [Fig. 9]. Gautier interpreted
the comet that appears in the printas a "blacksun":
Dans le fond du tableau, sur I'horizonsans borne,
Le vieux pere ocean leve sa face morne
Et dans le bleu cristal de son profond miroir
Reflechitles rayons d'un grand soleil noir
Une chauve-souris, qui d'un donjon s'envole
Porte ecrit dans son aile ouverte en banderole:
Melancholie.11

etching (from: LEclipse, August 6,


7) Gill, (<Remember!>,,
1871). Photo: Bibliothbque nationale de France, Paris.

Gautierwould evoke Durer's Melancholia in his Tableau


de siege (1870-71) in the context of the unhappiness that penetrates France under "l'ombredu crepuscle."
References to solar mythology were popular in fin-desiecle writing.Mallarme,who laterbefriended Redon, believed
131

BARBARA
LARSON

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8) ((Masthead)), etching (from L'Eclipse, August 6,1871).

that all myths were variations on solar mythology. The


Symbolist Rimbaudwas also interested in solar myths. Among
other images he used that of the setting sun to suggest the
Prussian advance.
the sun has been the star of France and the
Traditionally,
of
its
glory.The most famous exampleis, of course, Louis
symbol
XIVthe "sun king".Along withthe eclipse, images that featured
a reemerging sun also were references to recent events. In
Illustreof February11, 1871, forexample,the illustration
L'Univers
"TheGenius of Franceshows its starcoming out frombehindthe
clouds"suggests a hopefulimage forthe futureand the possibility of national recovery. Redon's Marianneexplicitly demonstratesthe resumed powerof Francethroughthe regainingof the
sun, which here blocks the darkcelestial body [Fig.10].
The comet was another ancient sign of disaster that Redon
revived in his post-warwork.At the time, predictionsand studies of comets had been given impetus by new scientific
advances. Inaddition,the idea of a huge flamingbody suddenly colliding with earth seemed to be a real possibilityto a public increasingly convinced of an unpredictableuniverse at the
end of the century. Whetherthis catastrophe could occur on
a grand scale, given the fact that the earth was now thought of
as a mere and vulnerable speck in the universal scheme of
things, was the subject of much debate. Jules Verne's popular
Off on a Comet was about a piece of earth, with a handfulof
132

- rrrer

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Crb

I~

.
.-

PAR GILL

Photo: Bibliotheque nationale de France, Paris.

inhabitants,torn away by a comet and hurtlingthrough space.


Flammarionhimself was convinced that this was the way the
worldwould end and is the subject of his Findu monde (Endof
the World) of the 1890s. The French Symbolist Gustave
Moreaualso makes use of a comet as a sign of cosmological
disaster. Itappears to the left of the rearinghorse in his Death
of Phaeton of 1878 (a workRedon admired)as Phaeton's world
is destroyed [Fig. 11]. Moreau's personal library included
many books on astronomy and he used star maps to lay out
the constellations represented in Death of Phaeton.
Tying together fin-de-siecle and cosmological catastrophe, the subject of the Apocalypse of Saint John with its
visionary index of celestial disorder became currentin the late
nineteenth century.This is the subject of a set of Redon's lithographic prints of 1899 which draws on Durer's celebrated
Revelation of Saint John woodcuts. Redon's Apocalypse
printsunited the idea of overwhelmingdemonic forces, a subject popular in the nineties, and uncontrollable celestial
events. Among these prints is "AndThere Fell a Great Star
Burningas if it Were a Lamp"[Fig. 12]. Here the destruction of
the world by a molten dislodged star echoes the warnings of
star-gazing doomsayers at the end of the century.This image
responds to the biblicalverse, "Thethirdangel blew his trumpet and a great star fell fromthe heaven blazing like a torch".12
Throughout this chapter are repeated warnings of celestial

THEFRANCO-PRUSSIAN
WARANDCOSMOLOGICAL
INODILONREDON'SNOIRS
SYMBOLISM

1>>,
9) Albrecht Durer,<<Melancholia
engraving, 1514.
Museum.
Photo:
The
British
London,
Marburg/Art
Resource, NY.

disaster. In chapter eight, for example, "the fourth angel blew


his trumpet and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the
moon and a thirdof the stars, a thirdof all lightwas darkened"
and in chapter nine, "thefifthangel blew his trumpetand I saw
a star fall from the heaven and the angel was given the key to
the shaft of the bottomless pit, he opened the shaft and smoke
rose fromthe pit and darkened the sky".13Takingup the same
subject across the channel in Englandat the turnof the century was Henry Stock whose Revelation series includes And I
Saw a Star FallfromHeaven: Revelation9: 1 of 1902.14

n.d., charcoal. Phoenix,


10) Odilon Redon, <<Marianne,,
Phoenix Art Museum. Photo: Museum.

Whileadvances in astronomy are undoubtedly behind the


revived interest in ancient cosmological symbols, recent discoveries also contributed to a renewal of the extraterrestrial
life debate, a discourse that may well have influenced Redon's
cosmological imagery.The most famous book on this subject
was Flammarion'sLa Pluralitedes mondes habites, first published in 1862. Two years later Redon added the significantly
expanded second edition to his library.A number of Redon's
images like Nightmare of 1881 or "The Breath that is in all
Beings Is also in the Spheres" from the lithographicseries To
133

BARBARA
LARSON

11) Gustave Moreau, (<TheFall of Phaeton,, 1878, Paris, Mus6e d'Orsay.


Photo: Michele Bellot, Reunion des Musees Nationaux/ArtResource, NY.
134

THEFRANCO-PRUSSIAN
WARANDCOSMOLOGICAL
INODILONREDON'SNOIRS
SYMBOLISM

There Fell a Great Star from


12) Odilon Redon, <<And
Heaven, Burning as if it Were a Lamp,,,from The
Apocalypse of St. John, 1899, lithograph in black on ivory
chine affixed to ivory wove paper, 30.2 x 23.1 cm, The
Stickney Collection, 1920.1841. Chicago, The Art Institute
of Chicago. Photo: Museum.

EdgarAllen Poe of the same year suggests the artist's interest


in other planets [Figs. 13, 14].
Whatseemed to confirmto many the otherwise extraordinarypossibility of life elsewhere was the new astronomy itself.
Stellar spectral lines of other orbs were believed to correspond to terrestrial elements and thus seemed to establish
similar operating principles throughout the universe. Jules

Janssen himself reportedwhat he believed to be the discovery


of water vapor on Mars and asserted, "Water,which plays so
importanta part in all organized beings is also an element
common to the planets. There is powerfulreason to thinkthat
life is no exclusive privilegeof our littleearth".15He along with
many astronomers became increasinglyconvinced of extraterrestriallife followingthe Martiancanal debates of 1877.16
Flammarionwas the most influentialpluralist-astronomer
in France. In La Pluralite he asserted what would become
common thinkinglaterin the century:earth was small, not particularlyfavored in position and thus highly unlikelyto be the
only inhabitedplanet. He assures us, "theworldthat we inhabit is nothing but an atom in the relativeimportanceof the many
creations of space. We willsee that the ants of the countryside
will have infinitelymore basis to believe that they are the only
inhabitantsof the globe, than we to believe that infinitespace
is but a desert where we are the only oasis, where man would
be the sole contemplator of eternity".17"The Breaththat is in
all Beings Is also in the Spheres" may echo in title
Flammarion'swords, "the breath of life that is found throughout the universe transforms apparent solitude and peoples
space withthe splendor of existence".18
One of Redon's noirs is called Meteor and is a conflation
of a human head and a falling celestial body beneath a night
sky. Meteor studies were used in France at the time to
advance the theory of extraterrestriallife. In 1864 one of the
largest meteors that would be known for the next century fell
in Orgueil, France. Scientists believed that it carried earth-like
substances including peat and lignites and a debate over
meteors as a clue to life elsewhere was initiated.Morecurious
than the idea that meteorites carried information about life
elsewhere was the proposal by a number of prominentscientists that life on earth may itself have originatedby comets carrying organic materials from other worlds, a possible reference in Redon's "Germination."
Flammarionand a number of other pluralistwritersin the
late nineteenth centuryjoined their belief in life elsewhere with
an idea of a more distinctly spiritual nature-after death the
human soul itself journeys from planet or star to others in the
solar system, then ranged throughoutthe universe in a series
of rebirthsimprovingthroughout eternity.Earthwas the most
lowly of all planets, the site of "the fall." This is why God
became incarnate on earth and had to die to redeem the terrestrial sinners. One might hope for better existences elsewhere. The ancient idea of reincarnationwas joined with the
dream of voyages to other worlds.
Withthe loss of the war this idea of a spiritualescape from
a doomed and lowly planet was revived. It forms part of the
discourse, for example, in Hugo's LAnnee terrible and Louis
135

BARBARA
LARSON

c. 1880, charcoal. New


13) Odilon Redon, <<Nightmare>,
York,private collection.

Figuier'sLe lendemain de la mort, ou la vie futureselon la science (1871). According to Figuier, after death the spirit of
a given planetary inhabitant gravitates into the ether of the
atmosphere. If his life was not perfected enough he will be
reincarnated;otherwise, he will find his eventual home in the
sun. Here the spirit becomes part of solar light, spreading life
throughoutthe universe. Anotherdreamer who sought spiritual escape from war-timedisaster was Louis Blanqui.Arrested
one day before the Commune began, this politicalfigure spent
five months in a dank, gloomy cell penning the treatise
L'Eternitepar les astres: Hypothese astronomique, published
in 1872. According to these remarkable ideas, the earth is
repeated as a planet throughouteternitywith carbon copies of
136

14) Odilon Redon, ((Thebreath which leads living creatures


is also in the spheres,,, from ToEdgarAllan Poe, 1882,
lithograph in black on ivory chine affixed to white wove
paper, 27.3 x 20.8 cm, Charles Stickney Collection,
1920.1691. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo:
Museum.

each human and their actions duplicated ad infinitumthroughout time. Likeso many who were writingabout existences on
other planets and stars, he brought up new spectroscopic
studies as proof that all worlds were in fact the same as our
own.19

Certain of Redon's images such as "Pilgrimof the SublunarWorld"from the lithographicseries Dreams (1891) suggests an interest in metempsychosis [Fig. 15]. Here Redon

WARANDCOSMOLOGICAL
INODILONREDON'SNOIRS
THEFRANCO-PRUSSIAN
SYMBOLISM
seems to be following Flammarion'sconvictionthat in the spiritual journey of rebirthearth is lowly with better expectations
for the next life. These ideas, based on ancient notions, had its
most important source in recent literature with Reynaud's

-"-.':",s-;'

Terreet ciel of 1854 which established the doctrine of transmigration. Reynaud had posited progressive improvement as

'

':,t
_AI; '^ :

one passes from planet to planet in a series of rebirths.

Redon's fantasies of planets, stars and other lives


respond to a fertile era of development in astronomy. The
renewed appeal of historical astronomical symbolism and the
imaginativetheories of stargazers at the end of the nineteenth
centurywere both points of inspiration.Gloomy aspects of the
artist's cosmological works in part reflect the philosophical
discourses that attended developments in this scientific field
in a nation that despaired of regaining its former power. The
intoxicationof space and the reaction against an amputated
France,whose lost regions of Alsace and Lorrainewere not to
be forgotten, had reverberations in an expanding colonial
empire and collective celestial fantasy. These were worlds
withoutimposed limits.Fantasy and escapism itself was a way
to ease post-war anxieties in the late nineteenth century.The
illusionof distance, travel, and other possibilities made use of
the fantastic potential of "cosmos."

=:

..

..-,

'::;

' .,

:.
_

of the Sublunar World,,,from


15) Odilon Redon, <<Pilgrim
Dreams, 1891, lithograph, 34.9 x 26.7 cm, Charles Stickney
Collection, 1920.1691. Chicago, The Art Institute of
Chicago. Photo: Museum.

137

BARBARALARSON
1 On
photography of celestial bodies in these years see exh.
cat. Dans le champ des etoiles: Les photographes et le ciel 18502000, Paris, Musee d'Orsay,2000.

250.

2 Amadee Guillemin, Le Ciel (5th ed.), Paris, 1877, p. 5.


3 CamilleFlammarion,Les Etoiles, Paris, 1882, p. 310.
4 Guillemin(as in note 2), p. 10.
5 Camille Flammarion,Astronomie populaire, Paris,

1879, p.

6 Fora briefhistoryof cosmological symbolism see Jean-Pierre


Verdet,Le Ciel:Ordreet desordre, Paris, 1987.
7 Flammarion(as in note 5), pp. 252-253.
8 AndreMellerio,OdilonRedon, peintre, dessinateur et graveur,
Paris, 1923.
9 VictorHugo, L'Anneeterrible,Paris, 1871, p. 115.

10 Ibid.,
p.93.

11 Theophile Gautier, "Melancholia", Poesies completes de


Theophile Gautier, Paris, 1970, vol. II, p. 88. Melancholia was connected to the "mal du siecle" and the artistic temperament during
the Romantic period and continued to have significance as such in
the late nineteenth century. See Ulrich Finke, "Durer'sMelancholie
in der franzosischen und englischen Literatur des 19.
Jahrhunderts",Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins fur Kunstwissenschaft, XXX,1976, pp. 67-85. On the history of the black sun as
a cosmological symbol, its connection to the planet Saturn and its
significance for the artist, see H. Tuzet, "Elmage du soleil noir",
Revue des Sciences Humaines, XXII,1957, pp. 479-502. According
to Tuzet, the black sun (as an eclipse) historicallysymbolized darkness or cosmic chaos before the dawn of a new creation or spiritual
rebirth.Also see Giuseppina dal Canton, "Redon e la melanconia",
Artibus et Historiae, no. 14, 1986, pp. 125-152 for a discussion on
the alchemical significance of the black sun. Forother images of the
black sun in Redon's work see Alec Wildenstein, Odilon Redon:
Catalogue raisonne de I'oeuvre peint et dessine, I, nos. 249, 263,

138

265, 294, 656, 664; IV, 2574, 2625 and Andre Mellerio, Odilon
Redon, 1913, nos. 39 and 42.
12 Revelation,chapter 8, verse 10.
13 Ibid.,chapter 8, verse 7 and Chapter9, verse 10.
14 On the
history of apocalyptic imagery see exh. cat. The
Apocalypse and the Shape of Things to Come, London, British
Museum, 1999 and Frederic Van de Meer, LApocalypse dans I'art,
Paris, 1978. On the apocalypse, also see Eugen Weber,Apocalypses:
Prophecies, Cults, and MillenialBeliefs through the Ages, London
1999 and PierrePrigent,L'Apocalypse,Paris, 1998.
15 Quoted in Michael J. Crowe, The Extraterrestrial
Life Debate
1750-1900: The Idea of a Pluralityof Worldsfrom Kant to Lowell,
Cambridge,1986, p. 402.
16 In 1877 Mars was in close opposition to earth and the
astronomerGiovanniSchiaparellireportedthat he observed "canali"on
Mars.The interpretationof this word, which simply means "channels",
as something suggesting waterwaysformed by intelligentbeings was
made by Schiaparelli'scolleagues who did not speak Italian,ratherthan
by the Italianastronomerhimself.The idea generated by the "canali"
was that intelligentMartianshad built canals to channel melting ice
masses to drycentralregions of the planet.Capitalizingon a discourse
that had gone past his controlSchiaparellihimselfappeared beforethe
kingand queen of Italythe followingyear in whathe lateradmittedto be
a "Flammarionesquestyle",requestinga largertelescope to find additionalevidence about "Marswhich appears to be "aworldlittledifferent
from our own." This controversy brought Flammarion'swritings on
lifedebate would
extraterrestrial
lifeto center stage. The extraterrestrial
peak twentyyears laterwith Flammarion'sown La Planete Marset ses
conditionsd'habitabiliteand H. G. Wells's Warof the Worlds.
17 Camille Flammarion,La Pluralitedes mondes habites, Paris,
1864, p. 9.
18

Ibid., p.319.
19 Crowe (as in note 15), 99. 407-408.