The Death of Sardanapalus

The subject of this painting was inspired by Lord Byron’s dramatic poem of 1821 about the life of an ancient Assyrian king named Sardanapalus. Finding his palace besieged by enemies, Sardanapalus decides to kill himself, but first orders his officers to destroy all his favorite possessions in his presence—his wives, pages, and even his horses and dogs. This painting is a replica of a much larger work, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, that Delacroix first exhibited in the Salon of 1827–28, where it received harsh criticism. Delacroix may have painted this Museum’s version for himself before selling the larger work in 1846.

Eugène Delacroix – Sketch for The Death of Sardanapalus, c. 1827
Pastel over graphite, chalk and crayon on unbleached paper, 440 x 580 mm | Musée du Louvre, Paris

But—
In thy own chair—thy own place in the banquet—
I sought thy sweet face in the circle—but
Instead—a grey-haired, withered, bloody-eyed,
And bloody-handed, ghastly, ghostly thing,
Female in garb, and crowned upon the brow,
Furrowed with years, yet sneering with the passion
Of vengeance, leering too with that of lust,
Sate—my veins curdled!

Excerpt of the monologue from the play by Lord Byron
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  1. Byron e Delacroix, uma bela de uma combinação!

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