Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798-1863)
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Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798-1863)

Ecce Homo

Details
Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798-1863)
Ecce Homo
signed 'Eug. Delacroix' (lower right)
oil on panel
12 5/8 x 9½ in. (32 x 24 cm.)
Painted circa 1850.
Provenance
Mme Herbelin, Paris, by 1853.
Madeleine Lemaire.
with Tedesco Frères, Paris, April 1928.
von Herwarth collection, Meggenhorn (by 1963).
Jürg Medicus, Zurich.
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature
A. Joubin (ed.), Correspondance générale d'Eugène Delacroix, Paris, 1935, vol. III, p. 154.
A. Robaut, L'OEuvre complet de Eugène Delacroix, peintures, dessins, gravures, lithographies, Paris, 1885, no. 1554.
L. Johnson, The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix, a Critical Catalogue, Oxford, 1981, vol. 1, p. 168, no. 157 and vol. 2, pl. 138, illustrated.
Exhibited
Paris, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, August 1864, no. 31 (as 'Le Christ au roseau').
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Eugène Delacroix, 16 November 1963 - 19 January 1964, no. 27.
Bremen, Kunsthalle, Eugène Delacroix, 23 February - 26 April 1964, no. 25.
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Clemency Henty
Clemency Henty

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Lot Essay

Although Delacroix is famed for his expressive painting and his break with the classicizing traditions of Academic teaching, his Romanticism translated into a new idiom the techniques of many of the leading canons of art history. His diaries record countless trips to the Louvre, and make repeated reference to his thoughts on the great painters of the past. He was particularly influenced by Rubens, for his 'exaggerations and his swelling forms' (E. Delacroix, Diaries, March 6, 1847) and by the Venetian artists of the 16th century for their profound sense of colour. Of Titian, Delacroix wrote: 'It is not, in my opinion, either by the depth of his expression or by a great understanding of the subject that he touches you, but by his simplicity and by the absence of affectation.' (Diaries, 4 October 1854)

The present lot is clearly inspired by Titian: Delacroix knew, and mentions in his diaries, the very large treatment of the subject in the Louvre, and it is particularly close to a number of the Venetian's smaller renditions of the subject (see fig. 1). Although as a young man, Delacroix frequently made copies after the old masters, the present composition is very much his own, and a later elaboration of an etching which he had created in 1833, which depicts Christ alone (fig. 2).

Delacroix was not personally very religious; his large body of religious paintings was not a reflection of his personal beliefs, but rather a platform on which he could expressively paint a powerful range of human emotions. As Baudelaire wrote of him: 'All the grief and the pain of the Passion fascinates him; all the splendour of the Church enflames him. One by one he poors blood, light and darkness into his inspired canvases.' (C. Baudelaire, L'oeuvre et la vie d'Eugène Delacroix, 'Revue fantaisiste', 15 September 1861).

In the present work Delacroix depicts the suffering Christ at the hand of his tormentors, his pose graceful but submissive. Bathed in light, he is opposed the guard who taunts him, symbolically dressed in black; the lily, a symbol of purity, and the menacing halberd, are similarly juxtaposed, whilst simultaneously forming a V which anchors the figure of Christ in the centre of the composition. It is a work which achieves a profound sense of pathos through remarkably sparing means, projecting the same qualities which Delacroix admired in Titian.

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