Corpses kiss damsels: the curious art of Gustav Mossa

The Cock and the Pearl by Gustav Adolf Mossa

Gustav-Adolf Mossa’s paintings are subversive, playful and unforgettable. There is so much detail in each of these works, and while everything is stylized there is still emotional presence. You might recall one of his pieces from the Pierrot post last week. Intrigued by the concept of the Femme Fatale, much of his work features beautiful and somewhat tragic female heroines, often taken from myth or literature. There is also a certain distaste for Catholicism and fascination with perversion – Mary Magdalene climbs half-nude atop Christ’s crucified body, a noble woman powders her face beside a fetus in a jar, Helen tenderly kisses a corpse. Nudity and fatality aplenty!

Oddly, very little information is available online about this Symbolist painter. What my questionable French has allowed me to decipher from bits and pieces follows. Gustav Mossa, (1883-1971) was inspired by the work of Baudelaire among other authors, and his style takes its influences from Art Nouveau and the Preraphaélites. Marchesa Luisa Casati was one of his patrons, though I’ve yet to find a depiction of her in his work. He worked nonstop for fifteen years, 1903 to 1918, and then stopped suddenly, producing nothing but gaining popularity.

Thirty-eight of his major works are on display in The Fine Art museum of Nice. I did manage to find an online gallery of Mossa art here, a few more here, and there are more not entirely safe for work images beyond the jump – enjoy!

She by Gustav Adolf Mossa

David and Bathsheba by Gustav Adolf Mossa

Circe by Gustav Adolf Mossa

10 Responses to “Corpses kiss damsels: the curious art of Gustav Mossa”

  1. Ashbet Says:

    These paintings are *exquisite* . . . I love the technique, it would be wonderful to see them in person someday!

    — A :>

  2. Mer Says:

    Beautiful! :) I was wondering from who it was that Pierrot painting after the other entry.

    Btw, the first painting’s name is “The Cock and the Pearl”

  3. Zoetica Says:

    Ashbet – is he not fantastic? It’s hard to believe he’s so obscure – his work is just so good.

    Mer – thank you, fixing now!

  4. Lauren Says:

    Oh how lovely! I adore painters who insert so much into their work. It’s like a puzzle, trying to figure out what each object symbolizes. It’s also amazing to me that anyone could be brave enough to be so subversive so long ago.

    As an addendum to my comment about Mossa, I have a request. Zoe, you mentioned that you could see Mossa’s paintings in person in Nice; I happen to be traveling for the first time to Europe (London, Oslo, Amsterdam and Paris to be particular), and I’m sure that between all the contributors of Coilhouse, you have some excellent recommendations about things to do, places to see, etc overseas. Of course, every guidebook or website recommends the usual touristy stuff, but it would be far more interesting to know what Coilhouse recommends. I know I would be very interested, and I’d bet that nearly all your other readers would be too.

    It’s something to consider, anyhow. And, as always, thanks for continuing to enrich and enlighten my days with your blog!

  5. Nadya Says:

    Sex and death go together like peanut butter and jelly! I love how, in a lot of his paintings, it just looks like a bright, happy scene and the minute you focus on the details you’re like, “WHOA! wait a minute…” and the more you look, the more grisly, macabre things you find.

    Lauren! That’s a good request – moving forward, we’ll consolidate all the posts we have on this topic under a category like “travel.” Here’s what we got so far… these many not be in the lands that you’re visiting, but since you’re interested in traveling, these might be useful at some point:

    Tyrolean Folk Museum in Austria

    Museum of Parasites in Japan

    Adventures in Tokyo Themed Dining

    Puppet Museum in Tokyo

    Necromance in Los Angeles

    There’ll be more posts of this sort in the future!

  6. elizabeth Says:

    is there a book out about this artist? i need to know about it!!!

  7. Ace Says:

    dude awesome paintings

  8. Jorge Dos Santos Says:


    this is nice art, I saw his paintings in Namur at the museem of Félicien Rops..
    he has nice painting too.

    have a nice day.

    Jorge Dos Santos

  9. Sylvie Lafon Says:


    I wrote a book on Mossa many years ago. It is, I’m afraid, in French but contains a lot of beautiful illustrations in colour. You may find it on Amazon or ebay but it is unfortunately out of print:

    Sylvie Lafon et Anne-Marie Clais: Gustav-Adolf Mossa, La Scène Symboliste, Z’Edition, 1993

    Good reading!

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