Fernand Khnopff: Who Shall Deliver Me (Christina Georgina Rossetti) – 1891
‘Who Shall Deliver Me’ is the title of the poem by Christina Rossetti from which Khnopff chose the line ‘I Lock the Door upon Myself’ for the title of his most famous painting, now in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. A committed anglophile, Khnopff was deeply influenced by Christina’s brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burns Jones among others.
A woman stares out at the viewer with intensely unsettling blank eyes, her abundant red hair framing a handsome square-chined face. The wide choker accentuates an improbably long neck which seems to set her head apart from her shoulders. The face is perhaps an amalgam of Fernand’s beloved sister Marguerite and the model in I Lock the Door Upon Myself. She is jammed up against the picture plain and the slanted background perspective underscores the sense of unease. The presence of some sort of grating (a drain?) in the surface of the background road or lane is puzzling. Could it be a reference to Rossetti’s stanza
I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?
The bars of the grating may perhaps be a metaphor for a self imposed prison. The Cameo brooch, worn by the woman, which seems to reflect the sky would form a counterpoint representing the possibility of freedom.
Text by Geoffrey Smith