"Night Owls" 72" x 92.75" Oil on Canvas
The setting for this work is a boudoir scene from Jean-
Honore Fragonard’s drawing, Les Jets d’eau, c.1765-70,
wherein nozzles are depcted having emerged from the
floor spraying water and awaking sleeping nude female
figures. Lowe exaggerates the imagery in this mildly
erotic drawing by replacing the nozzles with phalluses,
and adds figures from his own imagination. The fleshed-
out children in Victorian dress looking on are referenced from Antoine Watteau’s painting Country
Amusements (c.1720), excepting they are painted life-sized rather than in Watteau's miniature style.
Lowe’s imagined ghostly apparitions, or owl bottomed ladies, amusingly illustrate the common
period colloquial term night owls, or night sparrows, slang for prostitutes. But the entire scene can
perhaps be more aptly expressed in Homer's epic verse:
-There many a bird of broadest pinion built
Secure her nest, the owl, the kite, and daw
Long-tongued, frequenter of the sandy shores.
A garden-vine luxuriant on all sides
Mantled the spacious cavern, cluster-hung
Profuse; four fountains of serenest lymph
Their sinuous course pursuing side by side,
Stray’d all around, and ev’ry where appear’d. . .
. . . heav’n’s messenger, admiring stood
That sight, and having all survey’d, at length
Enter’d the grotto; nor the lovely nymph
Him knew not soon as seen, for not unknown
Each to the other the Immortals are,
How far soever sep’rate their abodes.
The Odyssey of Homer (Book V. p.110)
[Translated by Henry Fuseli].