Two Young Girls or the Beautiful Rosine

Wiertz, Antoine

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra
  • Date of entry: Mar-22-2007


A suspended skeleton and a beautiful nude woman face one another. The skeleton, perhaps used by medical students or artists, hangs by its skull from a wire. At its feet are cluttered a few pieces of debris – a stone head and foot. A label attached to the skull reads “La Belle Rosine.”

Opposite the hanging bones stands a nude young woman with a garland in her hair. Her eyes look upwards toward the vacant sockets of the skull. Her contemplative expression suggests that she may perhaps be reflecting on her mortality. In her left hand, she loosely holds a garment.


Antoine Wiertz never received the wide acclaim that he believed was his due. He knew a certain level of success in France during his lifetime – he won the prestigious Prix de Rome – and found patronage readily during his career, yet believed the extent of his genius was never fully appreciated.

Wiertz was attracted to death and mortality, and these themes feature prominently in many of his works. Two Young Girls sardonically invites the viewer to consider the temporary nature of beauty and life. For a similar outlook on life and beauty’s brevity and perhaps foolishness, see Goya’s Las Viejas; for a provocative contrasting view, see Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching (Manao tupapau) (both annotated this database).


Painted in 1847

Primary Source

Musée Wiertz, Brussels