The Erotic Watery Dreamland of Henri Rousseau


“In 1910, the year of his death, Rousseau gave the world his last dream, his extraordinary painting Le Rȇve. In a moonlit jungle clearing, a naked woman lies on a brown velvet-covered couch. In attendance are she-lions, birds of paradise, an elephant, a worm-pink serpent and a dark-skinned snake charmer. Surrounding the odalisque’s sofa are the leaves and lilac-mauve blooms of Nelumbo nucifera (lotus flower). Although Rousseau’s ‘Dream’ is impossible to divine, it might be seen as the final and most florid flowering of the fantasy of nymph plus Nymphaea (or Nelumbo), the erotic watery dreamland that Mallarmé and Manet first pictured decades before. “

Mark Griffiths, “The Lotus Quest: In Search of the Sacred Flower”

I love everything about this painting but especially the domestic comfort of the velvet sofa submersed in the ocean of vegetation and the woman and the snake moving in sync with the same lethargic, watery, slippery, sinuous movements. According to the website, the woman portrayed in the painting is Jadwiga, Rousseau’s Polish mistress from his youth. Wikipedia quotes a poem that the artist wrote to accompany the painting:

“Jadwiga in a beautiful dream
Having fallen gently to sleep
Heard the sounds of a reed instrument
Played by a well-intentioned [snake] charmer.
As the moon reflected
On the rivers [or flowers], the verdant trees,
The wild snakes lend an ear
To the joyous tunes of the instrument.”

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24 Responses to The Erotic Watery Dreamland of Henri Rousseau

  1. ptero9 says:

    I like how the moonlight seems to cast a glow on Jadwiga. Or is it that Jadwiga herself is the source of the light? Either way, quite lovely and serene Monika.


  2. renatembell says:

    I had the pleasure of seeing this (“The Dream”) and Rousseau’s “The Sleeping Gypsy” at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC back in my college days. It is wonderful. Have you been there?


  3. Beautiful painting and a great post. Thanks for sharing this, Monika!!


  4. Gneiss Moon says:

    This painting ::feels like:: velvet to me, always has. Toro moon may explain that. Haa
    Thank you for another lovely post.


  5. lampmagician says:

    Reblogged this on lampmagician and commented:
    The last dream of Rousseau!


  6. Pingback: The Erotic Watery Dreamland of Henri Rousseau | lampmagician

  7. Beautiful Monika thank you~


  8. Richly sensual painting and it sings Moon in Taurus to me, especially the velvet couch 🙂


  9. It’s quite an interesting piece of art !


  10. Mmmm, I love the painting and the poem. I once woke from a dream where all the people in some ancient city were singing a song about a Queen lying naked. It was so distinct that when I woke I was able to write down the words of the song. I’ve been meaning to blog about this, and now I think I’ve found the painting to go with the song. I’m so glad you shared this.


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