Tuesday, July 26, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 8 - The Disciples at Emmaus

Title: The Disciples at Emmaus
Artist: Eugène Delacroix
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 55.2 x 47 cm
Date: 1853
Location: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.


Luke 24:28-35 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Delacroix has located this miraculous apparition in a darkened interior, which becomes dramatically illuminated by Christ’s golden halo. Jesus stands with a powerful backward stance, echoing the diagonal line of the staircase, breaking the bread with his large hands. The casual posture of the disciple on the right conveys the relaxation of a meal shared among friends, whereas the disciple on the left registers the wonder of the moment. The surprised disciple’s face is turned toward Jesus, Delacroix preferring the use of a bodily gesture—an up-flung left hand—rather than facial expression to convey amazement. In addition to shrewd compositional strategies and theatrical lighting, the artist’s characteristically loose paint handling of his later compositions adds a further note of dramatic energy to the work.

Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (April 1798 – August 1863) was a French painter regarded from the outset of his career as a leader of the French Romantic school. In 1815 he entered the studio of the neoclassical painter Pierre Narcisse Guérin, where he met Théodore Géricault, a romantic painter by whom he was much influenced. Delacroix took for his inspiration the art of Rubens and painters of the Venetian Renaissance, with an attendant emphasis on color and movement rather than clarity of outline and carefully modeled form. Delacroix's use of expressive brushstrokes and his study of the optical effects of color profoundly shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement.

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