Medea's Myth by Delacroix, in the Eugene Delacroix Museum. In Greek mythology, Medea, famed for her sorcery, was daughter of the King of Colchis and wife to Jason of the Argonauts. Infuriated with her husband's unfaithfulness, the vengeful Medea sent her husband's mistress an enchanted gown which burned her to death, and then she killed her own two children.
Delacroix, as many before and after him, was haunted by the story of Medea. Inspired by Euripides and Seneca as well as Corneille and Cherubini, transforming older drawings of the subject with his immense personality, Delacroix has left us the legacy of this great masterpiece charged with human drama. In fact, Delacroix made several versions on this theme throughout his life in 1838, 1859 and 1862. He exhibited the 1838 version in the Salon of the same year, where Medea is portrayed blinded by rage, her eyes and forehead in darkness, her calumnious mouth half open, her hands about to commit the most abominable of all crimes. The critics at the time were full of praise for the work and criticized only the unusual portrayal of the face half hidden in darkness, not grasping the highly symbolic significance of "eyes blinded by rage" and a "mind possessed with darkness".
Delacroix: Portrait of a Romantic Master
A recent visit to the Eugene Delacroix Museum, his former studio on the rue de Fürstenberg, struck me so deeply more so than when I first discovered him as a student that I felt I had to share some of the experience by brushing a portrait.
Delacroix personified the Romantic spirit of Paris more than any other artist; without him the art of painting would not have the same significance, energy and grandeur. Yet he was also amongst the first to denounce the human condition, the material and spiritual misery a majority of us have to bear: the wars, the suffering flesh, the spilt blood, the cruelty of it all. This may help explain why Delacroix's work has a lasting poignancy that will always rank him amongst the greatest witnesses of life and humanity.
Imagine him in his thirties: dark and handsome, wild and charismatic, strange and enigmatic haunted by "wicked angels" as Baudelaire described him and obsessed by art and painting. The rebellious hair, haughty eyes, willful mouth and strong chin of his self-portrait and Daguerreotypes reveal also the exaggerated rigidity of the personage. In fact, some find him arrogant, affected, narrow-minded and addicted to the past; others fall for his charming, suave and feline manners. He probably had a mixture of all these qualities and defects, making him all the more charming.
To read further on Delacroix and his work as well as his chronological biography, click here