Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863)
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.131)
When one of the versions of Christ Asleep during the Tempest was shown in the 1864 Delacroix memorial exhibition, a critic described it as "one of the subjects that Delacroix has caressed most . . . . Everything seduces him in this episode, the whipped-up water, the sky black with storms, the sails torn by the wind, the terror of the sailors, and, above all that, the sweet sleep of the Saviour in the midst of the revolt of nature." Delacroix painted fourteen variations of this New Testament lesson in faith: when awakened by his terrified disciples, Christ scolded them for their lack of trust in Providence. In the earlier works, the seascape is more prominent; in the later ones, as here, Christ's bark occupies a more significant place. After Vincent van Gogh saw this version in Paris in 1886, he wrote, "The 'Christ in the Boat'—I am speaking here of the sketch in blue and green with touches of violet, red and a little citron-yellow for the nimbus, the halo—speaks a symbolic language through color alone."