Oedipus and the Sphinx

Artist: Gustave Moreau (French, Paris 1826–1898 Paris)

Date: 1864

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 81 1/4 x 41 1/4 in. (206.4 x 104.8 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of William H. Herriman, 1920

Accession Number: 21.134.1


Moreau, at mid-career, made his mark with this painting at the Salon of 1864. It represents the Greek hero Oedipus confronting the Sphinx outside Thebes: he must solve her riddle to save his life and those of the besieged Thebans. Remains of victims who failed the test appear at bottom right. Moreau's mythological theme and archaizing style reflect his admiration for Ingres’s 1808 version of the same subject and for the work of the early Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. In emulating these exemplars, Moreau diverged from the Realist sensibilities shaping French art in the 1860s.