Listening to Art, by William Denton.
Volume five, number ten: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel and Heliodorus Driven from the Temple by Eugène Delacroix.
Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.
This is the fourth and last of a series devoted to works by Eugène Delacroix. In this issue we will listen to two paintings in a side chapel in the Church of Saint-Sulpice, which is a Roman Catholic church in the sixth arrondissement of Paris, on the Left Bank of the Seine.
On 20 May 1849, Delacroix wrote in his Journal: “Received a letter from the Minister of the Interior confirming the commission for Saint-Sulpice.” However, he had other work on the go, and did not really start until 1854. Even then, sickness, travel and obligations meant progress was very slow.
On 16 August 1856, he wrote: “Worked in the church—am feeling rather weary; I have now put in fifteen working days there at a stretch.” On 26 August 1856: “Made a new start today on the picture of Jacob at Saint-Sulpice. Got through a deal of work during the day; I heightened the tone of the whole group, etc. The lay-in was very successful.” A year later, on 27 August 1857: “I live like a hermit and each day is like the next. Every day except Sundays I work at Saint-Sulpice, and I see no one.”
In late December 1857 he moved to an apartment and studio on the rue de Fürstenberg, very near the church. He wrote in his Journal on 28 December:
My new home is really charming. I felt rather depressed after dinner, at finding myself transplanted, but I gradually became reconciled and went to bed quite happy.
I awoke next morning to find the sun shining in the most welcoming way on the houses opposite my window. The view on to the little garden, and the cheerful look of the studio continue to give me great pleasure.
That home is now a museum, the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix. One can sit in the garden that Delacroix so loved, and think about his life and his work. I made a recording there and it is available on Radio Aporee ::: Maps (see the bibliography for the link).
Delacroix had some trouble with his assistants, as he wrote about on 06 April 1860:
Went to Saint-Sulpice, today. Boulangé had done nothing, and had not understood one word of what I wanted. I seized a paintbrush and, in a fury, gave him the idea for the grisaille frames and the festoon. It is most extraordinary; although I was tired when I reached home, my nerves were not on edge. I believe that this is the first real sign of returning health after so many setbacks.
And then the next day, 07 April 1860, he wrote:
Went to Saint-Sulpice. Boulangé was not there to meet me. The unspeakable rascal never turns up, does no work, and puts down the delays to my changeableness. He actually was not there! I came home in a rage and have written to him about it.
My evening walks are doing me good.
Finally, in the summer of 1861, the chapel was done. In his biography Delacroix, Barthélémy Jobert says:
The religious theme recedes before the simple, realistic depiction of nature, and the dust of the caravan winding into the distance. There is a boldness that sets Delacroix apart from his contemporaries, a Delacroix who is outside all the theoretical discussions informing the decorative religious painting then undergoing a significant rebirth, a Delacroix equally far from those who claimed to rediscover the fervor of ancient times by imitating medieval and Renaissance models. He disassociated himself from them by the very relationship of his compositions to the architecture: they fill the frame assigned to them, neither referring to nor inspired by any tradition, and this gives them a startlingly modern look, resulting from more than the vigorous brushwork. This boldness was understood by some, violently opposed by others.
These are paintings, oil and wax on plaster, each 485 cm wide by 781 cm high.
Now let’s listen to Jacob Wrestling with the Angel and Heliodorus Driven from the Temple by Eugène Delacroix, recorded at the Church of Saint-Sulpice, in Paris, on 19 July 2019.
That was Jacob Wrestling with the Angel and Heliodorus Driven from the Temple by Eugène Delacroix. I hope you enjoyed listening to them as much as I did.
For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit listeningtoart.org.
Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
All web sites accessed as of date of publication.
Delacroix, Eugène. The Journal of Eugène Delacroix. 3rd ed. Edited by Hubert Wellington. Translated by Lucy Norton. London: Phaidon Press, 2001.
Denton, William. “In the Garden at the Delacroix Museum.” Radio Aporee ::: Maps. https://aporee.org/maps/?loc=46366&m=OSM.
Jobert, Barthélémy. Delacroix. Translated by Terry Grabar and Alexandra Bonfante-Warren. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Kauffmann, Jean-Paul. The Struggle with the Angel: Delacroix, Jacob and the God of Good and Evil. Translated by Patricia Clancy. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002.
Wikipedia, s.v. “Church of Saint-Sulpice,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Saint-Sulpice,_Paris.
⸻, s.v. “Eugène Delacroix,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugène_Delacroix.