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Ferdinand-Victor-Eugene Delacroix, A Turk Surreders to a Greek Horseman (1856)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at A Turk Surreders to a Greek Horseman (1856) by Ferdinand-Victor-Eugene Delacroix.

About the Work

Title : A Turk Surreders to a Greek Horseman
Artist : Ferdinand-Victor-Eugene Delacroix
Year : 1856
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions : 80 x 64.1 cm (31 1/2 x 25 1/4 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reality Versus Fiction

Delacroix’s painting depicted here is inspired by a popular poem by Lord Byron, called The Giaour, a Fragment of a Turkish Tale. Following is an extract form the poem :

“No breath of air to break the wave

That rolls below the Athenian’s grave,

That tomb which, gleaming o’er the cliff,

First greets the homeward-veering skiff

High o’er the land he saved in vain;

When shall such Hero live again?”

However, looking at Delacroix’s painting, the viewer cannot immediately tell the scene is inspired by a piece of fiction. Instead, as is pointed out by the Harvard Art Museum’s digital archive :

“To a contemporary audience, the composition could have appeared to be an episode from the Greek War of Independence (1821–32)…”

The key characteristics of Romanticism are apparent in this work. As mentioned above, the painting carries a certain sense of nostalgia, suggesting that the event really took place in the past. Delacroix’s brushwork further captures the urgency of the moment represented.

Other Details

Ferdinand-Victor-Eugene Delacroix’s A Turk Surreders to a Greek Horseman is housed in the Harvard Art Museums’ collection Room 2200 of European and American Art, 17th–19th century. It is part of the museum’s collection of The Emergence of Romanticism in Early Nineteenth-Century France.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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