1851 - 1923
Lilith and the Snake

Oil on canvas, signed lower left
Image size: 16 x 15 3/4 inches (40.5 x 40 cm)
Original gilt frame


From the estate of the prominent art collector Leon Zielinski


Please scroll down for more information and a framed image.

This is a painting of the mythic figure Lilith. Born by the hand of the Creator, and shaped from impure clay, which influenced her demonic nature, she is punished and condemned to see her offspring die. Thirsty for revenge, she takes the form of the snake of temptation and incites Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Abel is also a victim of Lilith’s perversity as she leads Caïn to commit fratricide.

Here, Lilith appears in all of her sensuality as she stares directly at the snake that is twisted firmly around her – a snake that she does not fear, and whose form, according to Jewish mythology, she takes to pervert her victims. The snake coiled around her makes them both appear as one, the line where one ends and the other begins is blurred.

Her luminous and milky skin detaches from the background and focuses our attention entirely on her fatal beauty. The juxtaposition of the scaly snake wrapped around Lilith’s luminous flesh emphasises the physical difference between the two. Far from the religious depiction of the demoness, the artist then offers a nearly provocative image by depicting the perfect mix between calm and sensuality for such a sinful figure.

This subject was also famously explored by the Pre-Raphaelites in such works as the 1887 painting by the artist John Collier and the 1868 poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti entitled ‘Lilith, or Body’s Beauty’.



George von Hoesslin

George von Hoesslin came from an aristocratic Augsburg background. He grew up in the United States, where he trained as a merchant. However he moved back to Germany in 1871 to enroll at the Academy of Art in Munich. Rapidly disillusioned with the teaching methods of the Academy, he broke off his studies, determined to further his skills independently. He visited Italy for the first time in 1875.

Munich was to remain his permanent base – it was here that he would produce most of his finished paintings. Over the following forty years he made extended annual trips to Italy. He rented a studio in Rome which he kept on until 1911. The city was to provide an important source of artistic stimuli. He also developed an increasing interest in landscape. He travelled widely throughout Italy, often on lengthy study trips by bicycle. Landscape remained his chief interest throughout his artistic career.

Hoesslin’s lifelong output of history paintings, allegorical subjects and portraits provided him with a regular source of income and secured public recognition of his art at major exhibitions. However his real talents lay in landscape painting. He produced a large body of studies sur le motif which served as the basis for monumental landscapes worked up later in the studio. Many of these compositions are devoid of figures. Titles like The Rock of Medusa and Homeric Coastline, with their references to classical literature, underline his intention not to achieve topographical accuracy but to conjure up mysterious Böcklinesque associations with the myths and legends of antiquity. Even in a non-imaginary or real landscape like the View of the Villa Spinola in the Bay of Genoa topographical accuracy is subordinated to a contemplative, almost poetic mood of melancholy.