et les papillons se mettent à chanter / and the butterflies begin to sing, 1929

Lured from out of the darkness, a large number of moths and little insects flutter around a burning gas lantern. The bright light not only illuminates the goings-on in the foreground with their vaguely melancholy quality, but also reveals gruesome catacombs from which standing skeletons appear to be peering out in a bizarre manner. For this surreal memento mori which appeared in 1929 in his first collage novel “La femme 100 têtes”, Ernst carefully and skilfully combined details of two images from dissimilar sources. The mass-produced wood engraving illustrations of the nineteenth century supplied him with ample imagery for his complex collage novels. Superseded for the most part in the twentieth century by the photographic reproduction, this pictorial material was of interest to the artist partly on account of its graphic structures, but above all because it offered him a whole world of motifs. With technical brilliance and sensitive artistic reflection, Ernst created his collages by combining countless pictorial fragments to form paradoxical and surreally lyrical images.


Design for an illustration in La femme 100 têtes, Paris 1929, chap. VIII, 120
Collage, 163 x 148 mm
Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e. V.
© VG Bild-Kunst, Photo: Ursula Edelmann