Takaya Miou
Holy Child
Japan, 2007

Drawing (genga); ink and screen-tone on Kent paper
Collection of the artist (L.2016-16.26)
© Takaya Miou, 2007

Holy Child is an illustration for “Flora” (2000), a short story by Shinoda Mayumi (b. 1953) about Johann Peter Eckermann (1792–1854), the biographer of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832). The story is structured as a series of diary entries written by Eckermann shortly before his own death. Therein, the biographer describes a young girl who he meets at a garden in Palermo, Italy. Despite their age difference, he becomes strangely attracted to her, and his feelings quickly deteriorate into obsession, driving him to suicide.

Takaya’s image envisions the girl as a femme fatale, surrounded by the skeletons of those men who suffered fates similar to Eckermann’s. Fittingly, this character seems to have been structured upon that of the mythical villainess Lilith, whose first major literary appearance was in Goethe’s 1832 play Faust:

Adam’s first wife. Beware of her.
Her beauty’s one boast is her dangerous hair.
When Lilith winds it tight around young men
She doesn’t soon let go of them again.

[Goethe, Faust, lines 4206–4211. Trans. Martin Greenberg, 1992.]