The Sin was initially believed to be an image of Munch's ex-fiancée, Tulla Larsen, thus evoking their often tumultuous relationship. However, the emerald-eyed temptress of this dramatic lithograph has been identified instead as a professional model who posed regularly for the artist in his Berlin studio. Like many of Munch's images of women, she follows the popular fin-de-siècle trope of the femme fatale with her long tresses, blank stare, and full breasts enticing the male gaze, yet also connoting the potential for danger. The image makes reference to the Symbolist painter Franz von Stuck's celebrated 1893 painting The Sin, which depicts a figure in the same position and state of undress as in the Munch, but with dark hair and a large serpent wrapped around her torso. An undisputed master of the print medium, Munch made no fewer than 800 prints during his prolific career. His subjects were limited, however, to a smaller number of powerful images that he continually reworked in etching, lithography, and woodcut. His keen interest in technical experimentation, coupled with his use of simplified forms and expressionistic color, position him as an important progenitor of modernism.
Signature: Signed in graphite at lower right
Philip and Lynn Strauss; Donor: Philip and Lynn Strauss
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dangerous Beauty," February 5, 2018–January 6, 2019.