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The Cathedral

In one of his best-known early prints, Ensor takes a routine architectural subject and gives it a fantastic twist. The church is an amalgamation of three different cathedrals based on book illustrations. Not only is it a pastiche, but the large crowd in its foreground comprises a sea of individual faces melded into a grotesque whole. The scene suggests both a festive procession and a menacing military march. The chaos of a raucous mob became a recurring theme in Ensor’s work.

James Ensor
Belgian, 1860–1949
The Cathedral
1886
Etching on paper
Image/plate: 9 ¼ x 6 7/8 in. (23.5 x 17.5 cm); sheet: 17 x 12 ¼ in. (43.2 x 31.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 69.125