The Abduction of Rebecca, 1846
Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863)
Oil on canvas; 39 1/2 x 32 1/4 in. (100.3 x 81.9 cm)
Signed and dated (lower right): Eug. Delacroix / 1846
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1903 (03.30)
This painting, exhibited in the Salon of 1846, illustrates a scene from chapter 31 of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. During the sack and burning of the castle of Front-de-Boeuf (seen in flames in the background), the beautiful Rebecca was carried off by two Saracen slaves at the command of the Christian knight Bois-Guilbert, who had long coveted her. Intense drama is created as much by the contorted poses and compacted space as by the artist's use of vivid color. Contemporary critics praised the work's spontaneity and power, its harmony of color, and its pathos of movement. The painting was much admired by Théophile Thoré and Charles Baudelaire, two of the most perceptive critics of the nineteenth century. Baudelaire wrote that "Delacroix's painting is like nature; it has a horror of emptiness."