The Roses as Sentimental Despair


The Rose VI and The Rose V, Cy Twombly, 2008



“Infinitely at ease
despite so many risks,
with no variation
of her usual routine,
the blooming rose is the omen
of her immeasurable endurance.

Do we know how she survives?
No doubt one of her days
is all the earth and all
of our infinity.”

Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated from French by A. Poulin Jr.


The Rose series recall Cy Twombly‘s earlier cycle of paintings, Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair (1985), which also referred to quotations by Rilke, as well as Rumi and Giacomo Leopardi, embracing conceptions of nature dominated by its inevitable demise. Twombly’s ardent, bold, and often flamboyant use of colour has other affinities — with Andy Warhol‘s Flower series, for example, or Henri Matisse‘s late paper cut-outs. But just as the rose recurs throughout Rilke’s work as a memento mori, so does Twombly employ the motifs and conditions of the natural world to allude to the pleasure and transience of life.

4 thoughts on “The Roses as Sentimental Despair

  1. I’m a bit confused at how the Rose is depicted as an omen. I see words like “infinitely” and “immeasurable endurance”… does the Rose symbolize the cycle of life and death? Is the Rose portrayed as concept of memento mori? Is “her” Earth or the Rose itself? Omen here means the inevitable coming of death, right? And that is what the Rose is symbolizing?

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Matt. Excuse me. I couldn’t reply before. I can’t clear your mind. All I can tell is that if a piece of art left you confused or makes you wonder… that’s a big attempt. As they say, it’s rather have a mind opened by wonder than closed by belief. You´re welcome 🙂


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