Fernand Khnopff, in the Museum and in the Saleroom


Fernand KHNOPFF L’Art ou des Caresses - 1896
Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
L’Art ou des Caresses, 1896
Oil on canvas
50.5 x 150 cm
Bruxelles, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique
©J. Geleyns Art Photography

From December 11th 2018 to March 17th 2019 the Petit Palais, in collaboration with Belgium’s Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, is staging an exceptional exhibition dedicated to Fernand Khnopff, a leading light of the Symbolist movement. There has not been a retrospective of the artist’s work in Paris for 40 years, but today nearly 150 works have been assembled, offering a representative overview of the unique world of this multi-facetted artist – painter, designer, sculptor, engraver and master of the theatrical.


It was in his home-based studio – a real ‘temple of the me’ that Khnopff found expression through recurring themes such as landscapes, portraits of children, dreams inspired by Flemish primitive artists, memories of the novel Bruges-la-Morte, as well as through complex use of photography and the exploration of mythical characters on the theme of Hypnos. While the exhibition tells the story of his fears, Artcurial is offering connoisseurs the opportunity to admire, or even acquire, the object that would become pivotal to the artist’s career.

Tête d’Hypnos, a bronze with rich shades of brown, green and gold patina, will take centre stage at the pre-sale exhibition of the Terra Cotta and other Sculptures auction. In 1861, during a trip to London, the artist paid a visit to the British Museum where he discovered a small, broken, antique head attributed to Scopas (circa 420 – 320 BC), depicting Hypnos, God of sleep. He was immediately captivated by the artistry of the piece. Throughout his early career he had sought to capture, as accurately as possible, the melancholic strength of the eyes, the cold stare – looking but without seeing; his portraits bear witness to his ceaseless striving to achieve this, he had been doing so unconsciously but it became apparent to him on seeing this antique sculpture.


Fernand KHNOPFF -  Tête d’Hypnos
Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
Tête d’Hypnos
Hauteur totale : 37,5 cm
Estimation : 15 000 - 20 000 €

This devotion to Hypnos, which led to him building a sort of shrine at his home, seems, in reality, to be the result of his obsession with the eyes and with the constant questions surrounding his artistic output. All his artwork is touched by it, our mask marking an essential milestone in the development of his art. His fascination for this work of art led him to make, in 1900, a mould from the plaster cast being sold by the British Museum in order to produce a bronze version. Prior to this, he had already included his version of the object in several of his canvasses, notably in The Blue Wing, painted in 1894. Our bronze could be the very model he displayed in his home studio, but on a different stand.


Acquired in Brussels by the current owner around 2010, Fernand Khnopff’s Tête d’Hypnos could well change hands on March 27th, during the Paris auction.



Public exhibitions at Artcurial Brussels

From Wednesday 13th to Tuesday 19th March – 10am tp 6pm

Public exhibition in Paris
Saturday, 23th March 2019, from 11am to 6pm
Sunday, 24th March 2019, from 14am to 6pm
Monday, 25th March 2019, from 11am to 7pm
Tuesday, 26th March 2019, from 11am to 6pm
Wednesday, 27th March by appointment

Auction in Paris
Wednesday 27th March 2019 - 5pm


Vente aux enchères à Paris :
Mercredi 27 mars 2019, 18h


Exhibition at the Petit Palais until 17th March
‘Fernand Khnopff, Le maître de l’énigme’


Browse our catalogue


Sale Contact
Matthieu Fournier
Tél : +33 1 42 99 20 26



News Contact
Carine Decroi