Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)
Ovid among the Scythians, 1862
Oil on panel - 32 x 50 cm
New York, Metropolitan Museum
Photo : Sayn-Wittgenstein Fine Art Inc.
22/9/08 — Acquisition — New York, Metropolitan Museum — Late last spring, and with help from the Wrightsman fund, the Met acquired a canvas by Eugène Delacroix (ill. 1) from the New York Gallery, Sayn-Wittgenstein Fine Art Inc. to honour Philippe de Montebello.
The artist treated the subject, Ovid among the Scythians, more than once, the first time being in 1844 in a décor for the library of the Palais-Bourbon (a pendant for the Poetry cupola). It represents the moment when the poet, exiled on the shores of the Black Sea, receives food from the Scythians. In the right foreground, a man is milking a mare.
In 1859, Delacroix illustrated the same subject in a painting exhibited at the Salon that same year and which today is held at the National Gallery in London. The work acquired by the Met is not a study but a completed version, signed and dated 1862, which takes up many of the same elements of the London work. The most striking difference is in the treatment of the landscape and the figures. The first, as pointed out by Barthélémy Jobert , is more in keeping with a historical landscape. The focus of the composition in the New York canvas is the scene being represented.
The Met thus pursues its effort, initiated by Gary Tinterow a few years ago, to expand its Romantic collection (the purchase in 1989 of the Natchez works and in 1994 of the Portrait of Madame Riesener by Delacroix, of three by Chasseriau since 2001, including the Portrait of the Countess of La Tour-Maubourg, the Portrait of Géricault and a sea tempest scene by Horace Vernet in 1998 and 2003, etc.).