Hidden behind the masked figures of James Ensor’s The Entry of Christ into Brussels in 1889, from the years 1888-89, lies a spectacle waiting to be uncovered. In a 1932 speech for his exhibition at the Musée National du Jue de Paume in Paris, Ensor eloquently stated, “Witness The Entry of Christ into Brussels which teems with all the hard and soft creatures spewed out by the sea. Won over by irony, touched by splendors, my vision becomes more refined, I purify my colors, they are whole and personal.” While much debate has ensued surrounding this piece and its iconography, few scholars have considered the whole and personal aspects of this work. Instead, scholars have long believed that Ensor’s work is simply a commentary on the monarchy of Belgium, and the right-winged Catholic Party in power during the late 19th century.
On the contrary, various aspects of Ensor’s life sway his artwork. The Entry of Christ into Brussels 1889 is an idiosyncratic and enigmatic work, and a depiction unlike any of his contemporaries. Upon exploring past scholarship and through the process of researching Ensor’s letters, it becomes evident that Ensor has been greatly influenced by previous northern artists and this work functions as a satirical allegory and self-portrait.
Emily Edwards, ’11
Major: Art and Art History
Sponsor: Christina Penn-Goetsch