Egon Schiele, Levitation (The Blind ll), 1915 © Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 467

Egon Schiele, Levitation (The Blind II)

In this double-self-portrait, much like in his 1911 painting Self-Seer, Egon Schiele meditates on the great mystery of death.His focus here is on the interface between death and life—i.e. dying in and of itself—though he refrains from even attempting to come up with an answer as to what the hereafter might hold in store.

This painting’s visionary theme consists of a human being, positioned before a stylized landscape, in two states of levitation or floating away.While the lower version of the figure still touches the ground with his feet, the upper one has already lost contact with all things earthly.The wide eyes of this still-living figure are tired, their lids only half-open; his face is greenish in colour, and his fingertips touch in a loose praying position.The facial expression and gestures of the lower figure, on the other hand, suggest that he still has a bit of life left in him; he gazes out of the centre of the painting in abject terror.

This painting makes a theme of human beings letting go of life on earth; it also mercilessly lays bare the ephemeral nature of all that is human while posing the question as to the great mystery of what lies beyond.In the actual moment of death, however, nothing is yet decided—all worldviews, from atheism to the belief in a hereafter to the belief in reincarnation, remain plausible.Left behind is a rather melancholic field landscape containing various flowers which, though colourful, are unable to brighten up the scene.

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