Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi by Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix Painting Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi Meaning

Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi by Eugène Delacroix c.1826, romantic painting depicts the Third Siege of Greek Revolution
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi
by Eugène Delacroix (1826)
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi is a large canvas painting by the French romantic painter Eugène Delacroix, depicted in oil on canvas in 1826. The famous painting is about the Third Siege of Missolonghi, as a part of the Greek War of Independence, between Ottoman forces and Greek rebels. The allegorical artwork, known in its original French name as “La Grèce sur les ruines de Missolonghi” is preserved in the collection of Eugène Delacroix paintings at the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux), France. When the paintings of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres are examined, as one of Delacroix’s contemporaries, such as The Ambassadors of Agamemnon in the Tent of Achilles and Grande Odalisque, it becomes clear that French romantic interpreted the concept of historical painting in his own way by choosing a contemporary topic from the previous year. The artist presents a complex story with a long history, known as the Alamo of Greece, to his audience by reducing it to symbols in a melodramatic style with allegorical characters and elements. The woman in her traditional Greek costume, in short, Greece herself, was who is the figure depicted in Greece on the Ruins of the Missolonghi painting. The large canvas is a unique piece of Eugène Delacroix art with its orientalist touches and modern brushstrokes on a contemporary topic.

Painting of Eugène Delacroix Greece On the Ruins of Missolonghi Analysis

Eugène Delacroix's Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi painting reveals a woman in traditional dress, reminding La Marianne.
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi
Detail of Greek Woman
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi painting illustrates the figure of Greece, who is depicted as a woman occupying most of the canvas, just as in Liberty Leading the People. Equipped with classical Greek clothes, the woman is about to kneel and spread her hands to both sides, as if pointing to the violence of the events. A hand appears at the foot of the woman. While it contributes to the sense of violence in the romantic painting, it also represents the victims regarding the cost of war. This man’s disgrace, sprung from the wreckage of war, might be a cry for help from the Western World, according to Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix. The painter, who identified a gender for Greece and consubstantiated it with a female character, used the similar allegory for La Marianne character, which he portrayed for the July Revolution of 1830, and became the source of inspiration for the Statue of Liberty of NY City, USA.

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix, depicts La Marianne, alike Greek woman in Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi
Liberty Leading the People
Detail of La Marianne
Lady Liberty’s bare chest evokes the idea of Liberty and Republican ideals, while Greece’s also refers to the idea of independence. Moreover, Lady Liberty was adorned with the colors blue, red and white, which were taken from the sans-culottes and other rebellious strata and represented a national symbol of France together with the national anthem and Gallic Rooster, instead of the national color white, which indicates the kingdom, during the reign of Charles X. Similarly, the figure of Greece wears a blue robe over a white dress, alluding to the Greek flag and national colors. However, the romantic painter’s aim is not limited to just giving the character a national identity, but also a religious one reminding the Lamentations of Mary. The early Christian belief of the Immaculate Conception states that the Virgin Mary was cleansed of all her sins after becoming pregnant according to medieval theologians and some church fathers.

The Statue of Liberty by Bartholdi and Eiffel, statue in NYC, carved in 1886, related to Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
The Statue of Liberty by
Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi
and Gustave Eiffel (1886)
The romantic painter draws attention to the fact that the beautiful woman, which spread her hands like a prayer, was sinless by identifying her with Mary through this ancient belief. The striking painting establishes a strong bond with its viewer. The ideal beauty of the main character and her affinity for traditional allegory create a powerful collision with the rest of the picture. Here lies one of the religious references the romantic master furnished. The scene reminds the moment of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, while the broken piece of stone that the woman in white tunic stepped on evokes a tombstone where Jesus Christ raised Lazarus. The artist points out a Resurrection for the Greek Nation over these two characters and event from the Testament. On a second thought, the hand leaped from the pieces of rock may be derived from the love poem of Lord Byron, The Death of Selim.

The Raising of Lazarus by baroque painter Rembrandt c.1630-1632, related to Delacroix's Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
The Raising of Lazarus
by Rembrandt (1630-1632)
Apart from the owner of the hand representing the victims of the conflict, a third figure stands out in the background, covered in dark tones. Considering that the Ottoman Empire of the period was a khanate that ruled over three continents, it is not surprising that this soldier was black, considering their multiculturalism. However, when the artwork is examined from a 19th Century European perspective, it is seen that Delacroix, who painted Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi, also painted almost all of his invading or demonic characters in dark tones. This situation does not appear as racism but a sub meaning or an allegory for the period. The enemy in the picture wears a yellow turban close to orange and a vest of the same color on his body. The sash around his waist holds a set of daggers and early simple firearms, while a sword hangs in its sheath to his left.

Eugène Delacroix's Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi painting reveals an Ottoman soldier, invading the Greek lagoon.
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi
Detail of Ottoman Janissary
His long red robe indicates that this soldier was a Janissary. Janissaries were elite units that formed the main military power of the Ottoman Empire. It was formed by the recruitment and training of the children of minorities living in Ottoman lands, such as Albanians, Bulgarians, Armenians, Croats, Serbs, Greeks at a very young age. Although this situation can be identified with the term of child levy, its rules and processes were stricter, and might be explained with the concept of devshirmeh, an old Turkic word, which has passed from Turkish to English. This soldier carries a spear with a green flag at the tip. While the green flag can be associated with Islam, it is in harmony with its carrier compositionally.

Portrait of Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne by Ingres, c.1806, related with Delacroix's Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi
Napoleon I on His Imperial
Throne by Jean Ingres (1806)
The soldier has been depicted in his victorious and proud posture reminding the Roman Emperors of old or, the Ingres’s portrait of Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne, while Greek woman has been portrayed in a desperate situation revealing a sense of redemption and future hope. A threatening and frightening skyscape was painted in dark tones in order to hide the invader and put the victims forward, however use of red paint creates a sharp contrast with this purpose. The similar approach can be observed from The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, or briefly the Ghent Altarpiece and The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck and Hubert van Eyck brothers, who threw the secondary characters out of focus, while making the main figure overlap the vast majority of the vanvas. Although three of those depictions, the God of Father sitting on his throne, Napoleon Bonaparte and Greece, belonging to the different art periods and painting subjects, yet they all have the same symbolism that reveals the prominent forefront by avoiding juxtaposition.

Dutch masters Hubert and Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, related to Delacroix's Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi painting
Ghent Altarpiece by van
Eyck Brothers (1420-1432)
While woman in red shoes standing on a piece of blood stained stone, the Janissary adorned with almost full of red coats and specific arms, which dedicates their victory. Although both Greek woman and background images contain references to Delacroix’s bravura style painting and earlier works from the previous art movements, the painting has a total purpose of propaganda and warns the eastern European societies against the threat of destruction through the resistance of Greece before the sources like newspaper industry, internet and TV news become a part of our lives.

Missolonghi Massacre and Greek War of Independence in Eugène Delacroix Artworks

The Pietà, an Italian Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo, c.1498-1499, related to Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
Pietà by Michelangelo
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi tragically depicts the war lost in Messolonghi Lagoon against the Ottomans from the eyes of a supporter for Greek nation that has been fighting for independence to get rid of the Turkish rule. Eugène Delacroix, who also gives religious references in the painting, utilized the early depictions of Virgin Mary crying at the head of Jesus Christ, Pietà and the Madonna of Mercy for the creation process of the Greece figure. The idea of a suffering and struggling Greece in the throes succeeded in attracting the attention of French people and directed the public opinion to the east. The Greek War of Independence, started on Peloponnese, and lasted between 1821 and 1829, is also known as the Greek Revolution.

Portrait of Victor Hugo by French painter François-Nicolas Chifflart c.1868, related to Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
Portrait of Victor Hugo by
François-Nicolas Chifflart (1868)
The Greeks, were the second most populous minority among Ottoman subjects, after the Turks. They wanted to have their own state, like all nations, due to the French Revolutions and the Nationalism that has spread in Europe. Delacroix, was not only a leading figure for Romanticism but an intellectual artist who has been justifying the paternalistic leadership of conservative French Government for the Greek society. Considering that the Paris newspapers of the period followed the Missolonghi event closely and informed the Parisians and that Victor Hugo wrote a poem about this massacre, it is understood that the rest of the French commune did not think differently from the famous painter. During the Greek Revolution, it is known that the Empire reached its maximum limits and the central authority weakened.

The Massacre at Chios by French romantic painter Eugène Delacroix c.1824, related with Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
The Massacre at Chios by
Eugène Delacroix (1824)
On the one hand, the Turks, with the Committee of Union and Progress movements, has been trying to restrict the Sultan’s rights to speak over the country, and desiring to put high-ranking soldiers and prominent intellectuals in charge. Ottoman Empire was in the image of a weakened state that could not claim its lands. They had a power struggle on the European mainland for many years with Kingdoms of Russia, Britain, and France, as the countries preferred to weaken their natural enemy by supporting the rebellions fed by the idea of independence. Considering the rebellious identity of French romantics, especially 
Eugène, creating admirable paintings regarding the subjects of these civil commotions and uprisings, makes sense. However, he has also utilized religious and historical details in every work he had done in order to enrich the large canvases, as a color master.

Scene from the War Between the Turks and Greeks of Eugène Delacroix c.1856, related with Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
Scene from the War Between
the Turks and Greeks by
Eugène Delacroix (1856)
Realizing that it would lose its Ionian lands, which had ties with Rome, and that it would have to withdraw into Europe, the Ottomans demanded soldiers and support from the Egyptian Province, which was the strongest North African district of the Empire. This is why romantic painter describes a soldier of the Ottoman army destroyed Missolonghi as an African instead of a white Turk. The Greek movements for independence has always been one of the interests and sources of inspiration for the French artist. There are two more important works remained from Delacroix, as “The Massacre at Chios” from the Paris Saloon of 1824 and “Scene from the War Between the Turks and Greeks” from the Paris Saloon of 1827.

English poet Lord Byron, portrayed by Richard Westall c.1813, related to Delacroix's Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
Portrait of Lord Byron
by Richard Westall (1813)
The Massacre of Chios, portrays the decimation of Greek population living on the Chios Island, where remains within the coastal area of Turkey today. It was the first painting of Delacroix on the subject of Greek Independence, while Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi followed it as second in 1826. The city of Missolonghi has been besieged by the Turks since 1822, but the sieges of 1823 and 1824, in which the English romantic poet Lord Byron also lost his life, did not yield any results. However, on April 22, 1926, it was taken by an infantry army of thirty-five thousand men with naval support. Only a few people who defended the city, together with their families, started the destruction in order not to surrender the city of Missolonghi. George Gordon Byron was a significant figure in English Poem, whom the French painter admired and followed each other’s works regularly.

The Death of Sardanapalus of romantic French painter Eugène Delacroix c.1827, related to Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
The Death of Sardanapalus
by Eugène Delacroix (1827)
The Death of Sardanapalus depicting the Assyrian King’s last moments, was originally took its inspiration from the theatre play named Sardanapalus by Lord Byron staged in 1821. The poet’s death in Missolonghi must have caused a great tragedy in the art community that the English sculptor Alfred Joseph Stothard also painted him on a bronze medallion, just like a Roman Caesar or Greek hero from the ancient times. It is also possible to see the cities and people destroyed in order not to fall into the enemy hands, in The Death of Sardanapalus, which is also a Delacroix painting depicting the Assyrian King’s last moments.

Portrait of Lord Byron on a bronze coin by Alfred Joseph Stothard c.1826, related to Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
Illustration of Lord Byron by
Alfred Joseph Stothard (1826)
The French artist depicts the female figure representing the Hellenic race, which he sees as the ancestor of the European cultural heritage, as a person almost in ruins up to her waist. However, as much as the woman’s distress, her hope for the future is read from her face. The allegorical character describes both the lost war and an indispensable struggle for independence, which would be succeed. Delacroix was born in 1789 in the Saint-Maurice of France, in a region called as one of the suburbs of the period. Despite the dynastic ties of his family origins, it was clear that he had a rebellious artist profile in him from time immemorial. Delacroix’s Greek Revolution passion was obvious through the Massacre at Chios before he painted Greece, however the Neoclassical painters of the period that he was influenced and admired, such as Antoine-Jean Gros defined it a massacre of fine arts at the first glance.

The romantic painter’s style was contradictory and complete. He availed himself of Baroque lightning from the historical paintings of Peter Paul Rubens and the lithographs of Théodore Géricault in order to create realistic canvases, however most of them can be defined as riot of colors. Beyond lighting that he learned from Rubens, the artist created a convincing effect on the audience with the combination of vivid and smooth colors, while he also determined a revolutionary style by combining secular and religious symbols together. While the baroque chiaroscuro technique needed to tell strikingly the historical events including the results of the conflict between the Roman Catholic Church and protestants at this period, it has been used for the depiction of any kind of sujects in Baroque Era paintings, such as David and Goliaths (Madrid, Vienna, Rome) by Caravaggio Merisi. Delacroix utilized the extraordinary effect of this technique as a propaganda tool for nationalist politics and revolutionary ideas.

The Third Siege of Missolonghi Greece

Portrait of Lord Byron in Albanian Dress by English Thomas Phillips c.1813, related to Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
Portrait of Lord Byron
in Albanian Dress by
Thomas Phillips (1813)
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi cannot be interpreted separately from the Greek Independence Wars. Because of the siege started in 1825 and lasted for more than a year, the Greek resisters attempted to escape from the surrounding Ottoman army in order to avoid epidemics and starvation. Due to that the dangerous maneuver failed, also known as sortie in military terminology, and a large part of the Greek side has been slaughtered by Ottoman Turks. Eugène Delacroix was a zealous supporter of the Greek cause, likewise other European intellectuals and French artists. These people, who were martyrs for their country in the Third Siege of Missolonghi, affected the whole of Europe very much.  Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi Delacroix created had an huge impact on both art community and French society as well, however the artworks on Greek Independence have always been a source of inspiration for all artists, regardless of nationality, such as English master Thomas Phillips’s Portrait of Lord Byron in Albanian Dress.

Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi Lagoon

Orphan Girl at the Cemetery by French Eugène Delacroix c.1823-1824, related to Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi painting.
Orphan Girl at the Cemetery
by Eugène Delacroix
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi has been completed after only two months of hard work. The narrated event, which is the fall of Missolonghi City and its region Aetolia-Acarnania, was very recent and had the purpose of giving news for the French community, instead of being a historical or mythical painting Delacroix created in order to gain authority and popularity, such as The Barque of Dante, The Entry of the Crusaders in Constantinople and The Battle of Nancy. It’s known that all greatest artists has created those kind of artworks to earn reputation in their early career. Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya was an example for a mythical topic, while Orphan Girl at the Cemetery and The Duke of Orléans Showing His Lover by Eugène Delacroix were the examples of historical and realistic paintings in art history. Beyond getting credit, the main theme of the Delacroix is to announce to the European societies, especially the French, the struggle of the Greek nation against the Turkish loverlords and the destruction they have received. Missolonghi Lagoon, the place where are the ruins in Greece, also called Messolonghi Lagoon, is one of the touristic places in Greece under the part of the western munipicality of central part, and presents one of the natural beauties of the Greek country that visited by tourists every year.

Greece Expiring on the Ruins Of Missolonghi Significance and Legacy

Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi painting reveals an image of the signature of most known French romantic Eugène Delacroix
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi
Detail of Eugène Delacroix’s Signature
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi has the unframed dimensions of 83.85 × 55.90 inches (213 × 142 cm) and exhibited twice in the Louvre Museum of Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Newyork in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The signature of the famous painter is located at the bottom left of the iconic artwork, on a stone reminding a pedestal on which the character Greece treads. Together with other famous artworks from 15th to 20th Centuries, the north wing side of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, established in 1821, is the permanent home the romantic painting, which has not been moved much and been preserved for many years in Bordoux, the sister city of Los Angeles and Athens.

Women of Algiers in their Apartment by romantic Eugène Delacroix, c.1834, related with Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
Women of Algiers in their Apartment
by Eugène Delacroix (1834)
While the iconic signature of the artist has been put on a stone in the lower left corner, the romantic painting has always been a significant artwork by Delacroix, who also guided 19th Century art movements such as Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, in which he portrayed a contemporary subject as if rebelling against the perception of the Academy of Fine Arts that alleges that the large canvases must be dedicated for the historical paintings. As, one of the most iconic paintings in the World, American Gothic is a good example for this assumption. Considering Delacroix’s transcendent style, it's a wonder that the first paintings that brought him fame were Neoclassic-influenced works.

Self-Portrait of French romantic artist Eugène Delacroix painted in 1837, related to Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.
Self-Portrait by
Eugène Delacroix (1837)
Jacques-Louis David, who is known as the greatest neoclassical painter of the 18th and 19th Centuries, undoubtedly has a great share in this. Moreover, as one of the four great masters of Renaissance, Raphael’s drawings have heavily influences on the backgrounds Delacroix’s characters and disegno. Although not as much as in Women of Algiers in their Apartment, this painting is a mix of orientalist, neoclassical and romantic themes. Then it has become an inspiration source among Delacroix paintings, what influenced the lateral movements and artists, such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir regarding Impressionism, while Post-Impressionism regarding Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse. From this point of view, Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi by Eugène Delacroix occupies a unique position among the works of French Romanticism.
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi by Eugène Delacroix Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi by Eugène Delacroix Reviewed by Articonog on July 25, 2022 Rating: 5

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