Death of Sardanapalus

Eugène Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus, 1844. Oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.

The Death of Sardanapalus is a Romantic painting inspired by a dramatic poem written by Lord Byron in 1821. Delacroix does not follow Byron’s text exactly but instead depicted the scene in a much more dramatic and violent manner. The scene shows Sardanapalus — an ancient Assyrian king — who has decided to kill himself because his palace is surrounded by enemies. He intends to take all of his favorite possessions with him into death: his wives, pages, horses and dogs. Delacroix has painted a violent scene of death which critics in the artist's day found appalling, so much so that his piece was not on public display again until many years after its first exhibition. The painting in Philadelphia, shown here, is a second, smaller painting of the same subject that Delacroix painted seventeen years after the first painting which is in the Louvre. The first painting is about thirteen feet by sixteen feet which added to its power.

The Romantic Movement emerged in the early nineteenth century as a response to the disillusionment with the Enlightenment values of reason and order in the aftermath of the French Revolution, revolutions in the Ottoman Empire as well as events in nature such as the eruption of Tamobra. 




Death of Sardanapalus, 1844.

A broad, diverse group of nations ruled by the government of a single nation.

(adj.) Of or related to the empire founded by Turks at the turn of the 14th century C.E. and lasting into the early 20th century. (n.) One from that empire.

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