The Death of Sardanapalus Analysis

Categories: ArtDeathRomanticism

Art has been classified into many different types of styles. Some artists reflect the style perfectly in their works and others express elements from different styles in their pieces. The frvdsRomantic art style was a unique art style which drew away from the Neoclassical style, which was predominant. Romantic art was the complete opposite of Neoclassicism. Where neoclassical artists favoured strict forms, rules and reason and logic; Romantic artists strayed away from that form of painting and wanted to express individualism and personal emotions into their pieces.

Eugene Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus, as shown in Figure 1; embodies the feeling, emotions, and discord found in romantic art, but also traces of neoclassicism can be noticed in the piece, but the overall painting is too busy and hectic for the average neoclassicism painting. When compared with The Oath of Horatii, the calmness of the neoclassical painting contrasts greatly with the busy scene of The Death of Sardanapalus.

Although later, Delacroix’s work starts to inch towards an earlier variation of impressionism as seen in Liberty Leading the People, Which is vastly different from The Death of Sardanapalus.

All in all, The Death of Sardanapalus is a perfect example of the Romantic art style and embodies the elements that defines a piece of art as “Romantic”. Inspired by a poem by Lord Myron, Delacroix creates a discord filled scene on a huge canvas. The last Assyrian King, Sardanapalus is depicted in his last hours after finding out he will be killed in the battle.

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Rather than allowing himself to be killed by enemies, he plans his own suicide and orders everything that pleases him to be destroyed as well.

In this painting, Sardanapalus is shown on looking as the women in his harem, his favorite horses, and servants are being killed and his possessions are burned. Even though the time of his death is drawing near, Sardanapalus’s expression remains bored as his possessions are being destroyed. Delacroix uses warm, rich, and vivid colours and a new vignette style that reflects the Romantic style of the period. The unique use of light is also a key element in the painting which allows the painting to jump out at the viewer.

The 392 x 497 cm painting hangs in the Louvre in Paris, France and has received varied criticism from art critics because of the clustered, unorganized, and “appalling” composition. However, “Modern day critics recognize The Death of Sardanapalus as one of Delacroix’s masterpieces,” (Artble) known for its chaotic, but aesthetically pleasing content. Romanticism is an art movement occurring in the later 1700s and leads into the mid-1900s. Traits of this style include passion and the emotions of the artist, stressed individualism, and usually incorporated nature or exotic elements.

“Characteristics of Romantic art are difficult to define completely because of the varied techniques that were used. ” (Nair) Usually, Romantic art will incorporate elements from another style, such as Delacroix’s piece Liberty: Leading the People, which was painted a a while after The Death of Sardanapalus; A piece which perfectly reflects the style of Romanticism. In Liberty: Leading the People, Delacroix uses a lot more colour contrast and “continuous strokes as well as small, divided, independent ones,” (Artble) which is a technique favoured by impressionist painters.

However, in The Death of Sardanapalus, the brush strokes remain precise, and detailed; still staying within the style of romantic painting. Delacroix’s. Compared to his later work, which later inspired the earlier impressionist artists, Delacroix captures the spirit of Romantic art in The Death of Sardanapalus. In Liberty: Leading the People, Delacroix uses a triangle to compose the piece (Fig 2), with Liberty at the peak of the pyramid and the people at the bottom in order to balance out the composition, compared to The Death of Sardanapalus, “ Delacroix’s painting offers no clear recession into depth.

There is no logical sense of scale or perspective. ” (Walsh) The Death of Sardanapalus is just clustered and a mess with no real balance or logic. Romantic art is characterized as straying away from traditional art forms, thus this piece is a piece reminiscent to the art style known as Romanticism. 84 years prior to the creation of the death of Sardanapalus, another renowned French painter, Jacques-Louis David painted the most famous piece of Neoclassical art, The Oath of the Horatii. Neoclassicism and Romanticism are two completely opposite things.

Whereas Neoclassicism stresses the importance of balance, logic, and objectivity; Romanticism tries to emphasize the individual, spontaneity, and intuition. “One wanted to portray the absolute truth of life and the other wanted to depict reality through images of the wild and raw emotions…” (Neoclassicism and Romanticism) In The Oath of the Horatii, everything is organized and lined up neatly and the entire painting just gives off a calm feeling with the invisible brushstrokes and dull colors.

Whereas in The Death of Sardanapalus, everything is just in a state of utter chaos and the brush strokes of Delacroix are visible and assorted. The colors used are vibrant, rich and pop out at the viewer. Both pieces are inspired from stories, and it is more obvious that in The Oath of the Horatii, everything is muted in order for the story to be told through the painting. In The Death of Sardanapalus the entire scene is in a state of discord and unless the viewer studied the painting carefully, would they grasp the full composition of the work.

However, this piece does display the havoc that may have occurred in the poem by Lord Byron. The two pieces of art are also not similar because of the way the artist draws in the focal point of the piece is extremely dissimilar. Delacroix “…features a diagonal—emphasized by the flames of the pyre and the sensually writhing bodies—that crosses from bottom right to top left, its colors gradually changing from a deep red to a pearly pink against which the creamy flesh of the naked bodies and the raw white of the king’s drapery are accentuated.

” (Dorbani) and in The Oath of the Horatii, the vanishing point of the painting is where the hands all meet. David uses straight lines to lead the viewer’s eyes to the center are seen in Fig 3. “One force is centrifugal. Another force is centripetal. But there is no sustaining structure. ” (Lubbock) In Delacroix’s painting, there is no real focus point in the painting besides the area of the painting which is illuminated by light. Putting these two pieces together- one the “paradigm of neoclassicism” and the Romantic piece; the difference is obvious.

The color differences are already striking and the overall composition is also extremely different. Every single art movement has its own characteristics. Whether the artist chooses to stay within that style or incorporate stylistic elements of another art movement depends on their feelings, their inspiration, and the theme that they wish to incorporate into their work. Neoclassicism, Romanticism are all greatly contrasting styles, and the elements of design found in all three styles are vastly different. Even later paintings from the same artist can be immensely different from

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