Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

The Great Sirens

Paul Delvaux (Belgian, 1897–1994)
Oil on Masonite
79 1/2 x 122 in. (201.9 x 309.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Julian J. Aberbach, 1979
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 901
Measuring over six by nine feet, The Great Sirens is one of Delvaux’s largest paintings. The work features partially nude female figures in a moonlit architectural landscape, a mysterious setting that reveals the painter’s admiration of the work of Giorgio de Chirico. Unabashedly unselfconscious in their states of undress, the women are formidable, even threatening, in their quiet seduction. In the distance, a group of beached mermaids mesmerizes a lone man in a bowler hat. Ambiguous in meaning, the painting evokes enduring themes of love and erotic fantasy.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): P. Delvaux 6-47
Claude Spaak, Paris; Jean–Louis Merckx, Brussels; Mme Jean Krebs, Brussels; Joachim–Jean Aberbach, Sands Point (by 1967–at least 1975); Julian J. Aberbach, New York (by 1978–79; his gift to MMA)

Paris. René Drouin. "Paul Delvaux," March 1948, no. 16.

The Hague. Gemeentemuseum. "Facetten van hedendaagse schilderkunst," June 25–August 8, 1949, no. 29.

Paris. Musée des Arts Décoratifs. "Rétrospective Paul Delvaux," May 22–July 28, 1969, no. 37 (lent by Joachim Jean Aberbach, New York).

Paul-Aloïse De Bock. Paul Delvaux: L'Homme, Le Peintre, Psychologie d'un Art. Brussels, 1967, p. 295, no. 88, ill. (color), locates it in the collection of Joachim Jean Abberbach [sic], New York.

Jacques Meuris. 7 Dialogues avec Paul Delvaux: Accompagnés de 7 Lettres Imaginaires. Paris, 1971, ill. pp. 20–21 (overall), 24 (detail), locates it in the collection of Joachim Jean Abberbach [sic], New York.

Xavier Marret. "Paul Delvaux: le temps suspendu." Vie des arts 17 (Spring 1973), p. 50.

Suzanne Houbart–Wilkin in Delvaux. Brussels, 1975, pp. 223–24, no. 183, ill.

Lowery S. Sims in "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions 1979–1980. New York, 1980, p. 62, ill. (color).

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