Poem of the Soul – The Ideal

Information sur l’artiste
Louis Janmot [Lyon, 1814 - Lyon, 1892]

Date de l’œuvre
Louis Janmot, Le Poème de l'âme. L'Idéal, 1854.
Louis Janmot,
Le Poème de l'âme - l'idéal, 1854.
Image © Lyon MBA - Photo Alain Basset

This painting is the next to last of a cycle of eighteen paintings under the title The Poem of the Soul, most of which are dated 1854, but were painted between 1835 and 1855. They were all presented at the Universal Exhibition of 1855 on the recommendation of Eugène Delacroix. A long poem written by Janmot himself accompanies the paintings. They are echoed by sixteen drawings of comparable dimensions that are kept at the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts. The entire set of text and images was published at Saint-Etienne in 1881 on the initiative of the Catholic and royalist group led by the photographer Félix Thiollier. He reproduced them using the carbon process, which was still relatively new. In the eighteen paintings, the artist follows the first years of existence of the soul on earth.


The soul is represented as a man, who is depicted from birth to adulthood. To reflect the multifaceted nature of the artist, the figure is given a companion, who is his feminine double and who echoes one of the artist’s personalities. First brother and sister, then lovers, the soul and the “soul mate” travel sometimes on earth, sometimes through the skies. Here, the couple flies over high mountains, where the young woman, opening the last curtain of clouds that separates them from heaven, will disappear forever. A key work of the School of Lyon, The Poem of the Soul has often been compared to the work of the English Pre-Raphaelites. It is one of the milestones of spiritualism in painting in the 19th century in Europe, like the art of the German Nazarenes or the paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.


Louis Janmot, Poem of the Soul, complete series of 18 paintings : click to enlarge the image
Poème de l'âme cycle complet 18 tableaux
Louis Janmot
Poème de l'âme cycle complet 18 tableaux
Image © Lyon MBA - Photo Alain Basset
Artwork label
Description de l’œuvre

Donation of the artist’s heirs

H. 114; W. 144 cm

Donation of the artist’s heirs