Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Plague in Rome

Jules Elie Delaunay (1828-1891)
Plague in Rome
Oil on canvas
H. 131; W. 176.5 cm
Paris, Musée d'Orsay

Jules Elie Delaunay (1828-1891)
Preparatory drawing for Plague in Rome 1869
Pen and brown ink, with watercolour, heightened with white; squared for transfer on transparent paper
268 millimetres x 321 millimetres
The British Museum, London

The work was nspired by the artist's visit to the Roman Church of San Pietro in Vicoli. In the Church there was a fresco from 1476 which depicted a plague epidemic.

The actual scene depicts a passage from Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend telling the story of Saint Sebastian, which reads:

"And then there appeared a good angel, who commanded a bad angel, armed with a pike, to strike the houses and each house had as many dead as the number of blows on the door".

Others have said that it comes from a passage in the Golden Legend detailing how the Angel of Death knocked at the door of the impious in the plague of 680 in Rome.

In the painting Life is contrasted with death, paganism with Christianity

At the Salon of 1869, the paiinting was the subject of much comment and discussion.