"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
(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].
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Michael Allen Lowe
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