Studie voor de Maenaden, Boston

Jan Cox


Drawing, 785 x 573 mm.
Materials: charcoal on paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. S0491_22).

The myth of Orpheus plays a crucial role in Cox's oeuvre.  From 1953 up to the end of his painting life, it was to remain a constant source of inspiration.  In 1958-1959 he would devote an entire cycle of works to it.  He concludes this particular series of paintings on the Orphean theme in 1960 with a number of works around the Maenads, and of which this drawing is a preparatory sketch.

“The Maenads”, Cox writes, “are women who come together in an orgiastic celebration that ends in hysteria and destruction.  Animals are ripped apart, and Orpheus - who accidentally finds himself in this enchanted wood - is befallen by the same fate.  His limbs are strewn and his head and lyre flow away down river.  The poet who could live no more is destroyed by elemental forces."

In Study for the Maenads, Boston'(1960), also titled The Hands, the drama of Orpheus and Eurydice is not represented in detail, but rather via the loose, sketchy and linear drawing that obliges the viewer to all the more associate with the sorrow and the pain.  With this clear, constrained composition, the artist brings a personal and humane intensity of feeling to the surface. 

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