Max Ernst – Men Shall Know Nothing of This

Shea Robert

Max Ernst, Men Shall Know Nothing of This, 1923, oil on canvas, 81 x 64 cm, Tate Gallery, London.

In the painting Men Shall Know Nothings of This by Max Ernst ideas of Bréton’s “marvellous” comes through the work in the appearance of occult iconography. The spheres that make up the majority of the painting link it to Cabbalistic mysticism, which is a unifying occult form “…connected to Platonism, Alchemy and Hermeticism [including Rosicrusianism].”[1] In Cabbalistic mysticism, existence is built around the idea of the Tree of Life which “is a simple map [which] illustrates the most fundamental structure of existence”[2] The Tree of Life consists of ten main sephiroth (spheres) which are “cosmic principles, divine emanations, worlds and above all attributes of god”[3] which define the phenomenal world, the real.

In this painting, we have at the top a sun halfway through its eclipse phase, whether…

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