The Iconography of Sleep and the Life-Cycle: The Influence of Theosophical Literature and the Art of Paul Gauguin on Georges Lacombe's Le Lit


Between 1894 and 1896 Georges Lacombe, the nineteenth-century French Symbolist sculptor and member of the mystically attuned group of artists called the Nabis, carved for himself a new bed. This bed has been the object of much scholarly attention and iconographic analysis, but none of these efforts has satisfactorily examined the details of the bed's imagery, imagery that cohesively expresses Lacombe's interest in Theosophy, the spiritual implications of the phenomenon of sleep, and the subject of the life-cycle. Much focus has, instead, been placed on an attempt to decipher the complex and enigmatic imagery found on the headboard alone, ignoring the footboard and two siderails. This article examines therefore, for the first time,the bed as a whole. Drawing on pertinent passages from the Theosophical literature with which Lacombe was familiar, as well as the influence of the work of his artistic mentor, Paul Gauguin, I suggest that Lacombe's bed is far richer in meaning than previously imagined. (ML)

Losch, Michael
Release Year:
1996 Spring-Summer; 24(3-4): 447-60