To personify his Silence, Khnopff chooses a feminine figure, cut three-quarters high and filling the all picture plane. She is wearing a long dress with stiff pleats and her left hand, with the forefinger resting on her lips, is sheltered inside a glove. Only her face is not hidden.
It takes us back to the artist’s most used genre: the figure which, freed from anecdotic resemblance with visible nature, expresses spiritual reality. This quest for universality will give rise to many similarities between the faces, the vast majority feminine, in Khnopff’s work.
Here, as often, the Pre-Raphaelite type emerges beyond the facial features of his sister Marguerite, his favorite model. This physical type – which includes a straight profile, a long nose, a square chin, an abrupt skull and flamboyant hair – dominates symbolist art of that era as the archetype of ideal beauty (from Véronique Coomans-Cardon, in catalogue 'Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)', Brussels, RMFAB, 2004, p. 88-89')
English Translation by Marianne Reynolds (2010)