Private Collection, Brittany
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The Death of Lara
Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798 - 1863)
Watercolor with some bodycolor and some underdrawing in graphite
17.9 × 25.7 cm (7 1/16 × 10 1/8 in.)
A young woman in a vivid blue gown, red sash, tartan shawl, and small military cap hangs her head in despair. She grieves for the fallen warrior whose blood seeps into the ground from his fatal wound. He wears a suit of armor, and his sword and helmet lie at his side. The subject is taken from Lara, a poem by Lord Byron published in 1814. Lara, a Spanish overlord, returns from exile accompanied by Kaled, a young page of foreign birth. Lara becomes the leader of a peasant revolt, which is eventually suppressed by Otho, a hostile neighboring baron. In a final battle against overwhelming odds, Lara is mortally wounded by an arrow. He dies under the care of the faithful Kaled, who in the end is revealed to be a young maiden in disguise who is in love with him. The stiff body of the dead hero contrasts with the sagging, limp posture of the bereaved Kaled.
Eugène Delacroix displayed his skill at depicting a literary subject on a small scale. A brilliant colorist, Delacroix used rich shades of greens, browns, blues, and reds and scraped the paper in some areas to achieve certain textures and highlights.