Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ (French, 1842–1923)
A Woman Performing a Ritual with Snakes
Oil on canvas, 5 1/4 x 11 1/2 in.
Gift of Charles Janoray in honor of Roger Diederen
This sketch depicts a woman holding two snakes up in the moonlight, while three figures, perhaps musicians, are seated in an adjoining interior. The exact subject of this enigmatic composition remains to be determined, as a more finished painting has not been traced. Lecomte du Nouÿ drew an almost identical composition in pencil in one of his travel sketchbooks (Musée d’Art et d’Archéologie, Aurillac), and he therefore must have been inspired to tackle this subject during one of his many journeys to Egypt. The vague outline of what appears to be a temple façade in the background suggests that the scene was meant to take place in ancient Egypt.