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“The Angel of the Home”, Franco’s beast according to Max Ernst
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“The Angel of the Home”, Franco’s beast according to Max Ernst

From a painting titled The angel of the hearth, one would expect him to represent some protective figure. But Max Ernst (1891-1976) named him thus by antiphrase: it is not an angel, but a demon that he shows, furious and destructive, who can only arouse fear and horror. The canvas has a second title, less often used and which is also understandable in reverse: The Triumph of Surrealism. If we refer to the circumstances, it would indeed rather be the prefiguration of his destiny: proscribed, driven out of Europe and forced into exile.

In a landscape reduced to a kind of empty plain bounded on the horizon by reliefs barely visible as they are so far away, under a sky crossed by often thick clouds, leaps a chimera so large that its left hand is not entirely represented. She takes up most of the space, arms and legs outstretched. As she jumps, her left foot, with the sole lined with thorns, is in suspension. The law, in a shoed shoe, could crush in an instant the human who would be there, in the place of the painter and the spectator.

Read also: The tribulations of Max Ernst, citizen of the world

By its structure, this monster is anthropomorphic. His body is almost entirely wrapped in fabrics of various colors. The pants are half ochre, half blue. The shoulders disappear under waves of fabrics which wrinkle and twist in all directions. Some are blood-colored and one wonders if it is really rags or flayed flesh that one sees. Others, in different shades of greens and yellows, are less ambiguous.

But, in the center, where the bust should be, the shadow digs a deep void. In front of him float torn and frayed shreds of the most seductive pink: one can only see in them a kind of ridiculous cache-sex.

A long toothed jaw

It’s all pretty much human, even the hands, despite their long, curved, claw-like nails. But the head is not human: a large bird’s beak open on carnivorous canines, a slit for an eye, a forehead with two lobes, all of a pale color of cartilage, with the exception from the mouth. A white cap crowns this muzzle. The creature appears to howl with rage, while leaping. She will crush everything.

However, she is not the only protagonist. In the left part of the work, a creature no less chimerical, but smaller in size, is clearly visible. Green and ocher, it resembles an insect and a thorny plant: a kind of stick insect or praying mantis, with an antenna that ends in an eye and a long toothed jaw, a six-fingered leg and two kinds of arms that extend cling to the monster’s sleeve and pants. His position and the tension in his limbs indicate that he is trying to hold him back, but it is clear that he will not succeed: too small, too weak, despite his efforts.

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