Eugène Delacroix
(Charenton-Saint-Maurice, 1798-1863, Paris)
Triumph of Apollo, ca. 1853
Oil on canvas, 110 x 99.5 cm
Inscribed lower left: Eug. Delacroix
Johnson 577
When Delacroix on March 8, 1850 received the commission to paint the ceiling of the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre, he had already worked on the Palais Bourbon and the Palais du Luxembourg and thus had ample experience with largescale mural decorations. To finish what had been left incomplete by the court painter of Louis XIV, Charles Lebrun, in 1661 was, however, an unusually honorable task, filling Delacroix with great pride. On October 25, 1851 the Gallery, with the ceiling painting by Delacroix measuring 8 x 7,5 meters in its center, was opened to the public.
The Bührle Collection's sketch representing the ceiling painting appeared first in the auction of the artist’s estate in 1864 and corresponds largely to the ceiling: Apollo in his fiery chariot drawn by four steeds overcomes with his arrows the dragon Python, supported in the fray by Diana, Minerva, Mercury and Hercules, crowned with the laurel wreath of the goddess Victoria and the rainbow belt of the divine messenger Iris. The composition is masterfully adapted to the shape of the ceiling, with Apollo as dominant focus, and with dynamic diagonals radiating out from him to the rearing firespewing dragon. According to Lee Johnson, the Bührle sketch has not be painted in preparation of the executed work in the Louvre, but rather as a replica of the famous work by the artist himself, whilst Delacroix's name was probably added by a different hand later on.