An arousing subject has been placed into the confines of a strict formal system – its expressiveness inseparable from its constructed quality. The nude legs of the figures appear almost garish as they protrude from the nun and cardinal’s garments and seem to indicate that neither conventions nor taboos can restrain their basic instincts. 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. As the painting was originally entitled Caress, and the motif depicts a man lovingly embracing a kneeling woman, one is led to believe that Schiele was paraphrasing Gustav Klimt’s famous painting The Kiss. Quite conversely, however, he replaced Klimt’s gilded harmony with a suspense-packed convergence of polar oppositions that is supported by the contrasted color pairings of the scandalous red and a deep black.


  • Title: Cardinal and Nun (Caress)
  • Creator: Egon Schiele
  • Date Created: 1912
  • Physical Dimensions: w805 x h700 cm (Without Frame)
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: Leopold Museum, Vienna
  • External Link: Leopold Museum, Vienna
  • Technique: Oil on canvas
  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings: Signed and dated below right: EGON SCHIELE 1912
  • Inv. no.: LM 455

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