“Two Octopi”

John Singer SargentI’ve seen a lot of John Singer Sargent’s work over the years, but never this delightfully pulsating oil painting of two octopuses of 1875 until very recently. Sargent was about 19 when he painted this, and it’s one of the first oils in his oeuvre.

Cephalopods still had a bit of mystique about them in northern Europe, where another name for them was devil fish. These were seen and painted in Brittany. Sargent, who was born in Florence, was familiar with them from the Mediterranean, and he probably also knew they were good eating. I’m afraid they are rather delicious, especially grilled a la Grecque. I’ve stopped eating them since discovering how intelligent they are.

The word octopus comes from the Greek for eight feet. Octopi therefore shouldn’t be the plural since it’s cod-, if not dog-, Latin, but that is how the picture is known. It’s evidently in a private collection. The lucky so-and-so.

2 Responses to ““Two Octopi””


  1. 1 squarepi February 6, 2016 at 8:07 am

    It looked like a photo of a sculpture at first.

  2. 2 elwnyc February 6, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Beautiful. I’ve never seen this painting before. I gave up eating octopus after watching a Jacques Cousteau show about an octopus’s difficulties finding a safe place to have her babies, in the mostly sandy Mediterranean – she ended up using a discarded tin can.


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