In the dim light of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, France,  a large painting by Eugene Delacroix catches my eyes and my attention. There are so many aspects of the painting that keep me glued to it…  watching… meditating…  Not only the painting itself is amazing but its history, too.  Almost two hundred years have passed since the beginning of its story.

In 1819 the painter  Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) was commissioned a painting for Nantes Cathedral. However, Géricault secretly made a pact with his colleague  Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863),  who was unknown at the time, that Delacroix would paint the picture which Géricault would sign and they would split the money. Delacroix  needed money and thus agreed. He completed the painting in 1821. However the church rejected the picture.  Eventually in 1827 it was brought to Ajaccio Cathedral. And it is here until today.

Eugéne Delacroix – Triumph of Religion – Virgin of the Sacred Heart – oil on canvas, painted in 1821, Ajaccio Cathedral, Corsica, France. The view of the whole painting, dimensions 258 x 152 cm
Eugéne Delacroix – Triumph of Religion – Virgin of the Sacred Heart – detail

I am staring at the picture and I find it very modern. I can hardly believe that in a few years it will be two centuries old. I am looking at the face of Virgin Mary and she remembers me more to a young girl worker, her face is not the face I was used to see looking at her images until now.  I find her body to be painted in a very sexy way. I do not wonder, that the church representatives in Nantes refused the picture.

Eugéne Delacroix – Triumph of Religion – Virgin of the Sacred Heart – detail – postavy na spodku obrazu

These figures down there remebered me to a painting by Raffaello, Madonna Sistina of 1513, that is in Dresden in Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Zwinger. Raffaello has little angels in the picture, looking up.  Could Delacroix get the inspiration? Anyway, the composition is similar. I find the hairstyle of the man to the right very modern – as of today. Genius is ahead of his time – and it is Delacroix.

Amazing picture, this Delacroix, I cannot get enough, I cannot leave.  It was imply created by a wonderful painter and it is clear that with his following paintings he just confirmed his important place among the world painters. I am happy that this painting is in a cathedral that is almost empty and that I can enjoy viewing it as much I want. Not as for example his Liberty Leading the People, that is in Louvre, in a tight narrow room with throng of people and you are forced to keep moving next to it.