The Fragility of Civilization

Eugéne Delacroix

Library of the Palais Bourbon
  Library of the Palais Bourbon, Paris


Delacroix and assistants painted the entire vault of the long gallery which was to house the library. His work there was completed by the end of 1847 and is is regarded as a masterpiece. The theme of the work is the fragility of civilization. The achievement of the human spirit - all the great library contained - "were the results of a state of society so artificial and so delicately balanced that at the least touch they would be crushed beneath the avalanche of pent-up animal forces."    Clark, The Romantic Rebellion, p.216


"To express this idea he painted at one end, Orpheus bringing the benefits of civilization to the Greeks, at the other end, Attila and his hordes annihilating the culture of Italy."



A more successful painting on the same theme as the Attila is Delacroix's,  The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, c. 1840.


picasso Clark says the two women in the lower right remind him of Picasso's romantic drawings in line and wash (left). They remind me of Giotto's Lamentation. lamentation

"Delacroix was one of the most completely intelligent men of his century, but the very range and responsiveness of his mind made it almost impossible for him to be a painter. He could not abandon himself to his perceptions; he could  not simplify his ideas till they reached a paintable form: he could not come to rest. Painting deals with stasis, with place, not with time." p. 220