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“The Way of Silence” (1900-1903) by Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957)

According to Audrey Wagtberg Hansen in her article “Cold Gods and Fatal Women. “The Many Faces of the Sphinx in the 19th Century”, Kupka’s Way of Silence was “inspired by the poem Dream-land by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), [where] we see a lone traveler on a seemingly endless road under a starry sky, flanked by two rows of stone sphinxes. A Latin text on the pedestal of the front sphinx, ‘QUAD AD CAUSUM SUMUS’ (= why are we?), again poses a life-and-death question.”

Although Kupka’s painting certainly doesn’t correspond to Poe’s Dream-land (1850) in the particulars of its imagery, its depiction of a pathway through eternity certainly captures the atmosphere of the poem’s opening stanza:

BY a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule –
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE – out of TIME
source Artrenewal

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