Franz von Stuck's Sin uses a minimalist color scheme to characterize its subject, a partially nude woman, as a symbol for lust. The woman's navel and hips, as well as much of her breasts, are not only exposed but also illuminated, and the strands of dark hair falling over her hip increase the painting's eroticism. By contrast, her face is in shadow, framed by her dark hair, and she is surrounded by darkness. This contrast emphasizes the woman's sensual (and sinful) nature and obscures her human nature. The giant snake wrapped around her, a sinister image in its own right, presumably alludes to the serpent that tempted Eve in the book of Genesis. An orange patch in the background symbolizes the fires of hell.


1. Is Sin meant to be sensually appealing, morally revolting, or both? How does it relate to the moral and artistic ideals of the so-called Decadents? Consider, for example, the Victorian Web article on Charles Baudelaire.

2. In Genesis, Eve is a victim as well as an agent of temptation. Is the portrayal of the woman here at all comparable? How does it relate to other typical femme fatales, such as Pandora?

3. Compare this painting to Rossetti's Helen of Troy.

4. Consisting of four columns, Sin is a relatively simple painting in composition as well as color. What effect does this have?

Aesthetes & Decadents paintings by artist Franz von Stuck

Last modified 4 December 2006