Charles Gleyre, Lost Illusions, 1843

According to the artist’s diary, this painting is based on a vision he had while on the banks of the Nile in 1835. In this scene, an aging poet/singer drops his lyre in sadness as he watches his life’s ambitions float away. His ambitions are represented by maidens and a cupid who drops flower petals into the water while the entourage lazily floats away. The painting was named after the 1843 novel Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac, about a plucky journalist-turned-poet who disgraces himself and ruins the lives of those around him.

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