Note about Gustave Moreau

   So it is that in the works of Gustave Moreau the Muses, for example, are depicted as creatures belonging to an extinct race, but one which it was not unusual, during mythological times, to see passing by at night, in twos or threes, along some mountain path. Sometimes a poet, also possessed of a zoological individuality (characterized particularly by a certain non sexuality), is seen walking side by side with a Muse as in the nature of creatures of different but friendly species, who travel in company. In a watercolour in the museum in rue La Rochefoucauld we see a poet exhausted by a long journey in the mountains who a centaur has just encountered and which, moved by his fatigue, has taken him on his back and brought him home. And in more than one of those mythological paintings by Moreau the vast landscape in which the mystical scene, the fabulous heroes occupy a tiny space as if they were lost (just as Procris and Cephalus, Aesacus and Hesperie, Jason etc. in the studies by Turner that take their titles from their names), is seen from a certain height with an exactness down to the smallest detail, so to speak, thanks to the lighting scrupulously measured to the precise degree of the setting of the sun, the fugitive accuracy of shadows, and in this way, by making it appear instantaneous, he gives a sort of living historical reality to the symbolism of the fable, painting it as relating to the definite past. And for its part, what grandeur the legendary action gives to the landscape in which it takes place and which consequently becomes contemporary. The landscape dates the myth, the myth "fixes the date" of the landscape; it carries along with it the sky, the sun, the mountains that are witness to it, as far as an endless past, down into the depths of which they already seem visible for what they are today; it repeats through century to century the unfolding waves on the sea. It says to us: "This sunset, this ocean, just as you might see them this evening, these identical waves, was the same backdrop before which Hercules killed the Lernean Hydra, where the Bacchanates tore Orpheus to shreds. Then, in times immemorial where kings lived whose palaces are being rediscovered by archaeologists and who mythology has made into demigods, the sea, under the falling sky, was already rising up towards the shore with that lamentation that awakens in man an anxiety as vague as her." Yes, when, at the end of the day after the "Races", we stroll along the boards at Trouville, the sea that we are obliged to bring upon the scene to play a large part in the tableau that surrounds us is composed of so many contemporary images; it is the same sea which was seen from the Argo, it is the sea from prehistory; and it is only because we introduce into it the idea that it belongs to today and because we "fix it in time" with our daily vision that we hear the familiar, current accent, in the same murmuring sound in which Theseus had been made to feel our sadness before us.

Note cut from Combray in the first typescript, NAF 16730 122r - 123r and NAF 16733 120r - 122r.


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Created 28.10.17