From December 16, 2020 to March 8, 2021, as part of its exhibition A Romantic Duel, Delacroix’s Fascination for The Giaour by Lord Byron the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix invites visitors to the encounter between a great painter and a great writer from the 19th century, at a time when all of Europe was captivated by the Greek struggle for independence.

Throughout his career, Eugène Delacroix drew inspiration from the novels and poems of British writer Lord Byron, the most famous example being The Death of Sardanapalus on display at the Musée du Louvre. Fascinated by both the Orient and England, Delacroix found Byron’s oeuvre to be a source of worthy subjects. Their shared passion for Greece and its history motivated Delacroix in 1824 to put one of Lord Byron’s poems to paint : The Giaour, A Fragment of a Turkish Tale, published in 1813.

A story of love, betrayal, and revenge, the poem recounts the conflict between the rich Pasha Hassan and the Giaour, a Venetian in love with one of the slaves in Hassan’s harem. For more than twenty-five years, Eugène Delacroix would draw upon this text to produce a number of works—sketches, paintings, and a lithograph—depicting or inspired by the British poet’s world.

Illustrating the deep-seated fascination Delacroix retained for the world of Lord Byron, the exhibition A Romantic Duel : Delacroix’s Fascination for The Giaour by Lord Byron offers a comparison of the artist’s works depicting the battle of the Giaour and the Pasha. Some of the artist’s most prominent pieces are thus on display, such as Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha (Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais) and Scene from the War between the Turks and the Greeks (National Gallery of Athens). The exhibition also shows how artists such as composer Hector Berlioz, painter Ary Scheffer, and writer Alexandre Dumas, like the Romantic painter, were all inspired to portray The Giaour in a variety of fields, from painting and theater to music and opera. Exploring beyond the literal illustration of the poem, the exhibition also provides insight into Delacroix’s creative process. We discover the way in which the artist delved into his different themes of predilection—combat scenes, the Greek War of Independence, oriental dress and accessories, horses—to portray The Giaour.

The exhibition A Romantic Duel : Delacroix’s Fascination for The Giaour by Lord Byron is accompanied by a series of lectures, concerts, workshops, and other family experiences, such as lantern-guided and storytelling tours, at the heart of the last building where Eugène Delacroix lived and worked.

Exhibition curators :
- Claire Bessède, Director of the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix
- Grégoire Hallé, Director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Draguignan

In collaboration with Le Figaro, Connaissance des Arts, Insert and Radio Classique.

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