Sep 5, 2008

A Eunuch's Dream

A Eunuch's Dream


Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ

(French, 1842–1923)

Oil on wood

Framed: 54 x 74.5 x 5.5 cm (21 1/4 x 29 5/16 x 2 3/16 in.); Unframed: 39.3 x 65.4 cm (15 1/2 x 25 3/4 in.)

Seventy-fifth anniversary gift of Mrs. Noah L. Butkin 1991.173

Did you know?

Much of Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ's artwork was inspired by travelling to Egypt as a young man.


This painting, inspired by Charles Montesquieu's Persian Letters (published in 1721), depicts a eunuch who wanted to marry a harem slave. He experienced a vision of her while smoking his opium pipe, but her little companion holding a knife dripping with blood reminds us that the eunuch's anatomy precludes the fulfillment of his dream. The outline of a hand next to the signature is a khamsa, a symbol used to ward off evil.

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