The Complete Works of Philippe Smit
by Andreas Narzt and Florence Castellani
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Photo: Old photograph; © FdDPS


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Classification: Painting »
Theme: figurative »
Medium: Oil »
Support: on canvas »
Year(s): 1940 »
PS 473
Le tombeau sans nom (The tomb without a name)
Alternate title: Le tombeau sans nom
Oil on canvas
56 5/16 x 68 5/8 in. (143 x 174 cm) (sight size)
Signed and dated lower left: Philippe Smit 1940 and inscribed on the tomb lower left: Pour ceux qui/ Souffrent/ Pour ceux qui/ Luttent/ je dédie ce/ Tombeau/ Sans Nom (To those who suffer, to those who struggle, I dedicate this Tomb without a Name)
On the back: a metal plate: Lottie Urban on the frame upper right.
Inv. Lotty Urban-Leteneur, n.d. [ante 1953], s.n., private archives: no. [01], p. [1], Toiles: Le Tombeau sans nom.
Inv. Leteneur, n.d. [1977], n.p., s.n., private archives: no. [101], p. [10], atelier: Smit Philippe - 'Tombeau sans nom'/ Toile, 143 x 173 [cm].
Musée municipal, Noyers-sur-Serein, Yonne, France, Le Mystère Philippe Smit 1886 - 1948, April 01–November 30, 2000, as Le tombeau sans nom.
Literature & Primary Sources
ALS to Philippe Smit. Ceray [Céré-la-Ronde], Noël 1941.
Rivais, Jeanine. "Le mystère Philippe Smit (1886-1948)." Le cris d'os, n° 31 (2000), p. 166, as Le tombeau sans nom.
"un tombeau sans nom/ avec deux Anges pleurants sur l'idéal que/ ce brise avec un renouveau du printemps./ un printemps de notre cher Recloses toutes les/ petites fleurs de la vallée qui nous est si chère/ a tous [...]" [sic] (a tomb without a name, with two Angels bemoaning the ideal, may this end with a renewal of spring, a spring of our dear Recloses, all the little flowers of the valley so dear to us, to all … (New Year’s wishes of Philippe Smit on the back of a photo of the painting (fig. 1), date and recipient unknown, private archives, Paris)
These wishes confirm the artist’s despair at the beginning of World War II, which he expresses in this work honouring the nameless "who suffer" and "who struggle".
The horrors of war made the lyre slip from the artist’s hand, whose humanist ideal seems to be defeated but who seeks consolation in his faith. And if death triumphs, what does it matter since it is a rebirth for Emanuel Swedenborg, which he affirms in his book, Secrets of Heaven, held by the angels seated on the tomb.
In January 1942 Smit writes to Nicolaas Urban: "finally let us always hope, since the Lord and art exist."1 in response to the appreciations the latter had sent him shortly before: "[…] Then, my attention turns to the second reproduction: memories of a later date – the memories of Recloses! What a wonderful time for you of beauty and of love – of intimate walks like in heaven. Moments when nature was in its highest ecstasy; moments when a real artist like you receives balm for his soul. Immortal landscapes with eternal impact. Although the figure in the middle is broken and the two angels cry, but the beauty of the landscape and the sky – high above the figure – are still there and of an indestructible beauty. The flowers, so pure, so noble, as the newborns are always there every spring: they embrace the Lyre! [...]"2

1. "enfin espérons toujours, puisque le Seigneur et l’Art existent" (Philippe Smit, ALS to the Urbans, 12 January 1942, private archives, Paris).
2. "[…] Après, mon regard tombe sur la deuxième reproduction: des souvenirs plus tard – les souvenirs de Recloses! Quelle belle époque pour toi de la beauté et d’amour – des promenades intimes comme au Ciel. Des moments que la nature était dans sa plus haute extase; des moments que un vrais artiste comme toi reçoit de baume sur son âme. Des paysages immortels/ avec des impressions pour tous les temps. Bien que la figure au milieu est brisé et que les deux anges pleurent mais la beauté du paysage et le ciel - haut dessus de la figure – sont toujours là et d’une beauté indestructible! Les fleurs, si pures, si nobles, comme des nouveaux nés sont toujours là chaque printemps : ils embrassent la Lyre! […]" [sic] (Nicolaas Urban, ALS to Philippe Smit, Ceray [Céré-la-Ronde], [Indre], Christmas 1941, private archives, Paris, reply upon receiving from Philippe Smit at Christmas three reproductions of his latest works [PS 485], [PS 473] and [PS 486]).

Additional images
FIG. 1
Record last updated January 9, 2018. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
Citation: Narzt, Andreas and Castellani, Florence. "Le tombeau sans nom (The tomb without a name), 1940 (PS 473)." The Complete Works of Philippe Smit. (accessed on September 26, 2021).