I am analyzing a painting named "L'œuf du verbe voir" and wonder if the word in this case means something other than egg.

  • 2
    That title doesn't make sense to me. I searched to see if more context could bring enlightment, but found no mention at all of that painting. – Un francophone Feb 8 '14 at 20:56
  • The only thing I could see is that an egg might look like an eye, thus the link with the verbe voir, but it's otherwise unlikely one could analyze a painting based on text alone. – user757 Feb 8 '14 at 21:01
  • En cherchant sur Google, on trouve effectivement une peinture intitulée l'oeuf du verbe voir. – Laurent G. Feb 8 '14 at 21:47
  • @LaurentG., ton google-foo est meilleur que le mien (le pire est que je viens de réessayer avec ce que je pensais avoir utilisé et ton lien est le premier). Malheureusement, ça n'aide pas. – Un francophone Feb 8 '14 at 22:10
  • The work (a collograph) can be seen in several websites. Here's a link to one of them: mutualart.com/Artwork/L-Oeuf-du-Verbe-Voir/8B4E561242970653 – Karen Feb 10 '14 at 5:10

Roberto Matta is a surrealist painter, as well as being a poet & philosopher, and one shouldn't always try to find an obvious meaning to the titles of his works. The round shape of the egg and/or of the eye is very frequent in Matta's work (Ojo con los Desarrolladores, El Ojo Del Ciclón, ... even when the words aren't in the title, so there's no reason to be surprised of finding it in the title of this particular work. The idea of the verb, of the word, is much present in his work, as in all surrealists' works. I think the proper title of the work is "L'oeuf de verbe voir". Can't tell if de was wanted by Matta (he lived in France for some time and was acquainted with Breton and others and probably could speak some French) but the passage of de to du is IMHO a mistake that probably originated by someone who either wanted to "rectify" what he thought was a mistake or just made a copy error. But it is very important you look into this if you want to analyze the painting because I wouldn't interpret "oeuf de verbe" and "oeuf du verbe" in the same way. Personally I'm in favour of "oeuf de verbe". I'd wager on an interpretation that the painter is analyzing what is at the origin (the "egg" is an element of the birth process) of the verb. The two people on the left hand side are kissing and/or making love and we can see what looks like a heart on the middle parts of the two bodies. This might create the anger of the person on the right-hand side, anger expressed by a verb, a word, that we can imagine. When dealing with the surrealists imagination is a great help in the understanding. Other, or complementary relationship, between oeuf and verbe could be found in the Bible*, although I don't think Matta was religious.

This post has nothing, or very little, to do with French language, but I couldn't make it shorter for a comment, and there's no place on stackexchange I could refer the OP to for a beginning of an explanation of the use word oeuf here.

* "In the beginning was the Word...", "The Word became flesh..." (John 1:14)

  • I appreciate your extensive reply. I know Matta's work and that of the surrealists and agree that the titles often are irrelevant, nonetheless he was also known for his play on words and I thought this might be the case. I have the name of the painting as "du" not "de" but of course my knowledge of French is limited and I did not catch the error. Thank you! – Karen Feb 10 '14 at 5:06

No, that's not a rare meaning of the word that the artist used here, but a sheer invention, for the sake of imaginative suggestion.

A very strange one, by the way.


This name make no sense in French.

The same surrealistic Chilean painter, Roberto Matta, seems to have created other œuvres named:

  • « L’œuf de l’oeil »
  • « L’œuf du verbe noir »

which are just as meaningless.

  • I am not aware of "L’œuf du verbe noir" by Matta. A link? – None Feb 9 '14 at 15:25
  • @Laure After looking closer, it is likely a typo (noir vs voir) leading to a mistranslation. I only found a single link referring to "El huevo del verbo negro" here revista.escaner.cl/node/4384 – jlliagre Feb 9 '14 at 16:48
  • The work is a collograph done in 1995, and is listed as L'oeuf du verge void. – Karen Feb 10 '14 at 5:07
  • @Karen are you sure about "verge" and "void" ? That would be an interesting theory, especially when you know what "huevo" means in Spanish slang. – jlliagre Feb 10 '14 at 5:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.