Charles Cottet
In the Land of the Sea. Grief

In the Land of the Sea. Grief, also called The Victims of the Sea. Grief
Charles Cottet (1863-1925)
In the Land of the Sea. Grief, also called The Victims of the Sea. Grief
Between 1908 and 1909
Oil on canvas
H. 2.64; W. 3.45 m
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Les victimes de la mer. Douleur [The Victims of the Sea. Grief]


Bought by the State at the Salon des Boursiers de Voyage in 1912, this large painting called either In the Land of the Sea, Grief or The Victims of the Sea, is one of the many variations that Cottet painted to illustrate the harsh life of mariners and their families. In a powerfully geometrical composition, he transformed the return of the body of a drowned man to the port of the Ile of Sein into a universal event. It shows the eternal renewal of the death of Christ, with four grieving women in timeless dark costumes, substitutes for the Virgin and the holy women.

The religious reference does not stop at the allusion to the Gospels. The frieze arrangement of the figures also refers to wooden or stone sculptures from the Gothic period, which was a time of intense religious fervour. Although ostentatious emotion and grief distinguish the women in the centre, resignation seems to prevail among the crowd gathered around them while the background of overlapping facets of luminous colour, evokes an eternity which is greater than man's inevitably brief passage on earth.


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