The Pieta’ after Delacroix
The Pieta’ after Delacroix
"Good – since I’m above all ill at present, I’m trying to do something to console myself, for my own pleasure. I place the black-and-white by Delacroix or Millet or after them in front of me as a subject. And then I improvise colour on it but, being me, not completely of course, but seeking memories of their paintings – but the memory, the vague consonance of colours that are in the same sentiment, if not right – that’s my own interpretation." To Theo. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Friday, 20 September 1889
The Pieta’ or The Lamentation and 13th Station of the Cross is a scene of Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus is an oft depicted biblical theme first created in German in the 1300’s then becoming popular in Italy and France. Micheangelo’s sculpture is probably the most famous and sits in St. Peters Basilica to this day. Delacroix and many others depict similar poses and it is one of these treasured personal items of Vincent’s, a copy of the Delacroix, ruined in an episode the month before which he has sought to create in his own vision. His first, smaller attempt is on a size 6 canvas and now housed in Rome. His second effort was on a size 20 canvas and hangs in the Van Gogh Museum.
“When I see that crises here tend to take an absurd religious turn, I would almost dare believe that this even necessitates a return to the north. Don’t speak too much about this to the doctor when you see him4 – but I don’t know if this comes from living for so many months both at the hospital in Arles and here in these old cloisters. Anyway I ought not to live in surroundings like that, the street would be better then. I am not indifferent, and in the very suffering religious thoughts sometimes console me a great deal. Thus this time during my illness a misfortune happened to me – that lithograph of Delacroix, the Pietà, with other sheets had fallen into some oil and paint and got spoiled.
I was sad about it – then in the meantime I occupied myself painting it, and you’ll see it one day, on a no. 5 or 6 canvas I’ve made a copy of it which I think has feeling – besides, having not long ago seen the Daniel and the Odalisques and the Portrait of Bruyas and the Mulatto woman at Montpellier, I’m still under the impression that it had on me. This is what edifies me, as does reading a fine book like one by Beecher Stowe or Dickens. But what disturbs me is constantly seeing those good women who believe in the Virgin of Lourdes9 and make up things like that, and telling oneself that one is a prisoner in an administration like that, which very willingly cultivates these unhealthy religious aberrations when it ought to be a matter of curing them. So I say, it would be even better to go, if not into penal servitude then at least into the regiment.
I reproach myself for my cowardice, I ought to have defended my studio better, even if I had to fight with those gendarmes and neighbours. Others in my position would have used a revolver, and indeed, had one killed onlookers like that as an artist one would have been acquitted. I would have done better in that case then, and now I was cowardly and drunk.
Ill too, but I wasn’t brave. 1r:4 Then in the face of the Suffering of these crises I feel very fearful too, and so I don’t know if my zeal is something other than what I say, it’s like the man who wants to commit suicide, and finding the water too cold he struggles to catch hold of the bank again.”
To Theo. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Tuesday, 10 September 1889
“Good – since I’m above all ill at present, I’m trying to do something to console myself, for my own pleasure.
I place the black-and-white by Delacroix or Millet or after them in front of me as a subject. And then I improvise colour on it but, being me, not completely of course, but seeking memories of their paintings – but the memory, the vague consonance of colours that are in the same sentiment, if not right – that’s my own interpretation.”
To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Friday, 20 September 1889
Painting, Oil on Canvas – 42 x 34 cm Size 6 Figure
Saint-Rémy: September, 1889
Collezione Vaticana d’Arte Religiosa Moderna
Rome, Italy, Europe
F: 757, JH: 1776