La Mante Religieuse, 1938
Galerie Casa Bella, Paris.
Private collection, Barcelona.
Anon. sale; Guy Loudmer, Paris, 4 April 1989, lot 437.
Claude Kechichian, Paris.
Private Collection, Switzerland.
Barcelona, Sala Parés, Óscar Domínguez, 4 – 17 May 1989, no. 2.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Óscar Domínguez, Antológica 1926 – 1957, 23 Jan. – 31 March 1996, no. 58; this exhibition later travelled to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Centro de Arte La Granja, 19 April – 18 May 1996; and Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 25 June – 16 Sept. 1996.
Barcelona, Centre de Cultura Contemporània, París i els surrealistes, 17 Feb. – 22 May 2005; this exhibition later travelled to Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes, 20 June – 18 Sept. 2005.
In his 1938 painting La Mante Religieuse, Oscar Domínguez presents a monumentalised view of the praying mantis, who dominates the composition as she scans the undulating landscape for her next victim. Typically associated with the dangerous female body, the insect is depicted in profile, and her elongated neck and angular limbs appear simultaneously attractive and menacing. A closer inspection reveals the sharply pointed ‘teeth’ of her legs, used to pin her helpless victims in place. As a symbol of both sexual desire and violence, the praying mantis fascinated the Surrealists, and it appeared in paintings, drawings and poems by various members of the group. The violence of the species’ mating rituals, during which the male insect is often decapitated and devoured by the female, enshrined the praying mantis as a symbol of the femme fatale. Its capacity to transform itself was also intriguing: the mantis can camouflage itself and disappear into any background.
The Spanish painter Oscar Domínguez came under the influence of the Surrealist works of Yves Tanguy, and those of fellow Spaniard Picasso, following his move to Paris in 1927. In 1933 Domínguez met André Breton and Paul Éluard, two of the founders of the movement, and he was soon participating in Surrealist exhibitions in Copenhagen, London and Tenerife, eventually establishing his own studio in Montmartre. He was known for his use of decalcomania, which involved the transfer of engravings and prints onto materials such as pottery and canvas. During the Spanish Civil War years, Domínguez fell increasingly under the influence of Picasso, although he ultimately broke with the Surrealist circles in 1945.
Ana Vázquez de Parga has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work (2016).
La Mante Religieuse, 1938