Thursday, July 21, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 3 - Lamentation

Title: Lamentation
Artist: Paul Delaroche
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 49.5 x 32.7 cm
Date: 1820
Location: Dahesh Museum of Art, Greenwich, CT.


John 19:25-30 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

This is one of Delaroche's earliest known works and exemplifies the religious imagery that found favor in the opening years of the Bourbon Restoration (1814–1830), when the Catholic church regained much of the power it had lost during the French Revolution. In 1820 the Duchess of Orléans, wife of the Duke of Orléans (the future King Louis-Philippe), commissioned the young Delaroche, still an unknown student in the atelier of Baron Gros, to paint a Lamentation for the family chapel at the Palais Royal in Paris. That same year he also executed this smaller version, perhaps a presentation model submitted for final approval. However, the two compositions differ substantially, and this could also have been an independent work painted for the member of the ducal household to whom it is dedicated. Delaroche created a traditional but deeply moving depiction of the mourning Virgin, whose intense suffering is symbolized by the swords that pierce her heart.

Hippolyte Delaroche (July 1797 – November 1856), commonly known as Paul Delaroche, was a French painter born in Paris. Delaroche was born into a wealthy family and was trained by Antoine-Jean, Baron Gros, who then painted life-size histories and had many students. By 1822, with the arrival of Romanticism in Paris challenging the dominance of Neo-classicism, Delaroche was to steer a course between the two currents, unwilling to opt for full-blooded Romanticism for fear of jeopardizing his public standing. Delaroche's paintings, with their straightforward technique and dramatic compositions, became very popular. He applied essentially the same treatment to the characters of distant historical times, the founders of Christianity, and various figures of his own day such as "Napoleon at Fontainebleau."

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