Egon Schiele, Caress (Cardinal and Nun), 1912 © Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 455

Egon Schiele, Caress (Cardinal and Nun)


Provocative pictorial content, like the violation of clerical moral codes in the scandalous embrace in Caress (Cardinal and Nun), is testament to Egon Schiele's impetuous urge for renewal in which he radically breaks with traditions even beyond formal issues of art. The couple's relationship to one another, enforced by its rigid structure of form, might one lead to believe that Schiele was paraphrasing Gustav Klimt’s famous painting, The Kiss. The shocked expression on the nun’s face bears a remarkable resemblance to Schiele’s Self-Portrait with Raised Bare Shoulder of 1912. On the other hand, the cardinal’s naked legs seem to directly quote from an earlier watercolor showing Schiele’s companion Wally Neuzil kneeling with her bare legs on the floor. Therefore, it seems that Schiele intended to apply his and Wally’s identities to the cardinal and the nun, albeit in reversed roles.


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