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Death of Sardanapalus

Louvre, Paris, FrancePhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, US

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Eugène Delacroix, 1827

Romanticism
Orientalism
oil
canvas
mythological painting

Inspired by Lord Byron’s tale of Sardanapalus, the Assyrian king, Delacroix created this massive 12 by 16 foot masterpiece. As the tale goes, once, Sardanapalus learned he was facing military defeat, he ordered all his possessions destroyed, including his many concubines, servants and animals, before he committed suicide. This painting beautifully exemplifies the Romantic themes of bold colors, tragic imagery, and exotic decor. Delacroix used many literary sources as inspiration, including Shakespeare, Goethe and Byron, whom Delacroix largely admired. The Sardanapalus theme also inspired a cantata by Hector Berlioz and an opera by Franz Liszt.

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