Sunday, May 3, 2009

Death of Sardanapalus by Delacroix

Name: The Death of Sardanapalus
Artist's Name: Eugene Delocroix
Date: 1826
Period: Romantic
Material: Oil on canvas

This painting was inspired by the Lord Byron poem but the ending is shown quite differently. Sardanapalus hears that he is under siege and there is no hope for fighting back so he watches as everything he "loves" is destroyed before he burns to death on his funeral pyre. This isn't so much the death of Sardanapalus as it is the death of his servants, concubines and horse. For some reason, the authors of the book [Gardner's Art Through the Ages, 12th Ed. Vol. II] thought it necessary to emphasize how "sexy" this painting is, using words like "orgiastic" and "erotic". They don't say why they suppose that this is a "fantasy of the artist" but it really makes me question their interpretation rather than the artist's intention. The Romantic period focused on telling exotic stories to take the viewer away from their regular lives.

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