In the 1890s, Odilon Redon sometimes reworked some of his drawings or engravings in colour. Painted in 1890, Closed Eyes, which is no doubt a portrait of his wife Camille Falte, was thus a remake of an earlier drawing.
The eyes closed in sleep or death suggest an inner world, dream, absence or apparition, all fertile themes in the work of Odilon Redon, as he explains in A soi-même, his diary published in 1922. The highly diluted paint makes it almost immaterial, letting the grain of the canvas show through. The bust seems to float in an undefined space.
The face refers to busts from the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century, especially to the marble statues by Francesco Laurana. It is also reminiscent of Michelangelo's Dying Slave exhibited at the Louvre, which had deeply affected Redon; he spoke in his diary of the strange charm of the "closed eyes".
An icon of Symbolism in painting, this was the first of Redon's works to enter the national collections; it was chosen by Léonce Bénédite, the director of the Musée du Luxembourg, in the artist's studio in 1904.