Matthew Greenburgh: Sardanapalus

Cut leaf staghorn sumach – Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’

234x156cm - edition of 4 plus artist's proof
117x78cm - edition of 5

The leaves lie broadly in the pattern of the bodies in Delacroix’s glorious painting, The Death of Sardanapalus. I am also referring to Jeff Wall’s photograph, “The Destroyed Room”, which itself was inspired by the Delacroix. The fantasy of Sardanapalus’ orgiastic life and extravagant suicide (he is having all his possessions and concubines thrown on the pyre) represented in the Delacroix painting is deeply disturbing – this is echoed in the apparent relish with which Delacroix has created his picture and in the violence implicitly acted out by Wall.

Delacroix’s painting was triggered by Byron’s play of the same name – Byron gives Sardanapalus a more heroic suicide, involving only one concubine and permitting his followers to escape. Perhaps each artist interpreted the story to suit his own medium. I hope to allude to different aspects of these works: the aesthetic of the Delacroix, the self-awareness of the Wall and the fatalistic elements of the Byron.






Next Leaf



The Death of Sardanapalus, Eugene Delacroix, 1827



The Destroyed Room, Jeff Wall, 1978 c the artist

Copyright Matthew Greenburgh © 2015. All Rights Reserved.