Ovid among the Scythians

Artist: Eugène Delacroix (French, Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798–1863 Paris)

Date: 1862

Medium: Oil on paper, laid down on wood

Dimensions: 12 5/8 x 19 3/4 in. (32.1 x 50.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Wrightsman Fund, in honor of Philippe de Montebello, 2008

Accession Number: 2008.101


This is the final work Delacroix devoted to a theme that had first attracted him in 1835. It depicts the exiled poet Ovid, who in A.D. 8 was banished from Rome to the coast of the Black Sea, at present-day Constantsa, Romania. He was treated with kindness by the Scythians, who are shown feeding him and expressing mare’s milk for him to drink. This painting reprises a larger composition that Delacroix exhibited at the Salon of 1859 (now National Gallery, London). Reviews were mixed, but its admirers included Edgar Degas and the critic Charles Baudelaire, who wrote "The mind sinks into it with a slow and appreciative rapture…"