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Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha, Eugène Delacroix

© RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski

The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Author(s):
Hélène Doré

An isolated artwork inspired by Byron 

This engraving is inspired by a poem on the Greek War of Independence, written by Lord Byron and published in 1813 under the title The Giaour, A Fragment of a Turkish Tale. It portrays the duel between the Giaour—a pejorative term used by Turks to refer to non-Muslims—and the Pasha Hassan, who put one of his slaves Leila to death for her infidelity with the Giaour. Delacroix produced this lithograph in 1827, upon his return from England and as he was finishing the Faust series. He had planned a suite of illustrations on the Giaour; but undoubtedly due to the poor commercial success of the Faust series, the Giaour remained an isolated artwork in the artist’s printmaking oeuvre.

An epic and poetic illustration

Delacroix chose to portray the paroxysmal moment the two characters meet. The epic style of the composition is driven by a large diagonal that accentuates the overall intensity of the scene and highlights the ultimate exchange of gazes between the dying man and his assassin. A swirling movement is created by the Giaour’s posture, huddled on his rearing horse, like a beast ready to pounce, while the Pasha’s mount runs off in the distance. The two protagonists stand out clearly against the landscape rippling in the light, the costumes and fabrics twirl, adding a faint touch of poetry to this fatal scene. By the costumes and the subject portrayed, Delacroix’s Orientalism is already very present.

A theme also explored in painting

Delacroix produced several painted versions of this subject. In 1826, he exhibited an initial Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha at the Lebrun gallery, no. 4 rue du Gros-Chenêt in Paris, during the exhibition for the benefit of the Greeks, before presenting two more paintings three years later at the Musée Colbert, no. 2 rue Vivienne, with Henri Gaugain & Cie.

Bibliography

Delteil, Loys, Le peintre-graveur illustré, Ingres et Delacroix, vol. III, Paris, 1969, notice n°55
Jobert, Barthélémy, Delacroix, Paris, Gallimard, 1997, pp. 110 - 112
Delacroix et la gravure romantique, catalogue d’exposition sous la direction de Jean Adhémar et de Jacques Lethève, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1963, p. 5
Mémorial de l’exposition Eugène Delacroix organisée au musée du Louvre à l’occasion du Centenaire de la mort de l’artiste, Paris, Edition des Musées nationaux, 1963, pp. 167 - 168

Technical description

  • Eugène DELACROIX (Charenton-Saint-Maurice, 1798 - Paris, 1863)

    Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha

    1827

  • Lithograph, 2nd state

    H: 40.5 cm; W: 32.5 cm

  • MD 1999-1

  • The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Practical information

Location:
Musée Eugène-Delacroix
6, rue de Furstenberg
75006 Paris
Tel.: +33 (0)1 44 41 86 50

Getting there - Metro:
Alight at Saint-Germain-des-Prés station (line 4) or Mabillon station (line 10).

Opening hours:
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Tuesdays
Closed on the following holidays: January 1, May 1, December 25