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Akseli Gallen-Kallela: Démasquée, 1888

 

The obvious eroticism of Démasquée would seem to suggest that it was controversial at the time of its creation in 1888. That was not the case, however. The painting was not displayed in Helsinki in any of the annual exhibitions, because it had been commissioned by art collector H. F. Antell, allegedly for his collection of erotic pictures. After Antell died in 1893, the work ended up in the collection of the Finnish Art Society.

While the painting does play with the themes of female nudity and death – typical of Bohemian male attitudes of the time – the fact that Antell refused the piece also gives room for interpretations which suggest that, instead of a daydream of the male gaze, the woman in the picture is altogether too immediate, shameless and seductive for any man to be able to possess her, even in his dreams.