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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:15

Delacroix, Scene of the Massacre at Chios

Video transcript

[intro: theme music] >>DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: We're in the Musée du Louvre and we're looking at Eugene Delacroix's 'Massacre at Chios'. This is a painting that he showed in the Salon in 1824. And it's probably worth remembering that when we say Salon we're talking actually about the Salon Carré, a room in this building. So this painting is a contemporary political event that shows the aftermath of a battle during the Greek war of independence against the Turkish Empire. And the French would have been very staunchly on the side of the Greeks for a couple of reasons. First of all, France itself had gone through a series of revolutionary... I almost want to call them quakes: the primary French Revolution, and then of course all of the events that had taken place afterwards with Napoleon condemning the corruption of the monarchy. And so, the Greeks are seen very much as starting up against the corruption of the Empire of the Turks. >>DR. BETH HARRIS: So, those who were sympathetic to the revolution in France would have been sympathetic to the revolutionaries in Greece. >>ZUCKER: That's right and there's another issue as well, which is the Greeks tended to be Christian and their rulers, the Turks, would have tended to be Muslim. And so, there's that issue as well. >>HARRIS: What Delacroix does is show us unrelenting misery. We have a freeze of figures very much in the foreground who are the survivors of this Battle at Chios who are about to be taken into slavery, those that still are alive there are figures who are wounded, there are figures who are dead and dying so the focus is really on these individual moments of suffering within the painting. So, unlike Géricault's 'Raft of the Medusa' where we have all the figures joined together in this heroic attempt to flag down the ship in the distance, with Delacroix we focus on each figure and their misery. >>ZUCKER: This really is a painting though that is similar to the Géricault in that it is a painting about emotion. >>HARRIS: And there's a real sense of human suffering with a lack of heroism at the end. With David and 'The Oath of the Horatii' those figures are going off to battle, but they do so for a principle. And I guess the figures who have fought here have done that too. But what we get in the end is suffering and slavery. >>ZUCKER: And a sense of exhaustion. >>HARRIS: And in the David we get a space that's very organized. We get a venire perspective; we get an emphasis on line. And here with Delacroix, we get the importance of color. We have brushwork that seems more open. More of an interest in emotion. One of my favorite passages is the horse that rears up that the Turk is riding. What's wonderful is that there's a Greek figure who seems to be pleading with the Turk on the horse who turns callously away and rears his horse up and back. And I think that sense of the indifference of those in power, the indifference of the oppressor toward the suffering of the oppressed is something that probably really would have had resonance in France during this period of the restoration of the monarchy. [ending: theme music]