"The Death of Sardanapalus" is an oil on canvas, first painted by Eugène Delacroix in 1827 and was later reproduced to a smaller scale in 1844 by the artist. Delacroix (1798-1863) was a French painter, who is widely regarded as the leader of the French Romantic school of painters. Taking influence from the Venetian Renaissance masters, Delacroix's work focuses on the optical effects of colour through expressive brushstrokes and movements, steering away from the focus on clarity of outline and strong, precise form precision that was in fashion.
This painting demonstrates the dramatic, sensational content that is key to the style of Delacroix. The painting depicts the tale of Sardanapalus, the last king of Assyria, inspired by a play written by Lord Byron.
The central focus of the painting is an enormous bed made of fine, sumptuous materials in deep, rich colours. There are lavish draped across the scene and placed slightly off-centre to the left at the top of the frame, there is a man laying down wearing white robes. Just one of many examples of slight asymmetry in this painting, causing notions of disarray from the offset.
The painting is overpowered with death; literally, symbolically and metaphorically. There are dead, half-dressed bodies strewn across the scene, with men in armour with weapons slaughtering those left. The previously decadent scene is depicted through a classic "painterly brushstroke", giving the impression of movement to depict the chaos of the content. .
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