1827 - Deaths of Blake and Beethoven; Delacroix paints The Death of Sardanapalu
In 1827 the Romantic movement suffered the loss of two of its finest champions, Blake and Beethoven. Blake continued to work right up until the day of his death, working relentlessly on his illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy while he lay on his deathbed. Seeing his wife sitting in tears at his bedside he called out in alarm and proceeded to draw her, a picture which has sadly since been lost. Blake died at 6pm on 12th August, after promising his wife that he would always be with her.
Blighted by illness throughout his life, Beethoven died on the 26th of March during a thunderstorm. Some biographers believe that his physician inadvertently hastened the composer’s death by applying lead poultices to his body, compounding the lead poisoning which may have been the cause of all of his illness. Twenty thousand Viennese citizens lined the streets on the day of Beethoven’s funeral; Franz Schubert was the torch bearer.
Delacroix’s painting, The Death of Sardanapalus is dated 1827 and was based on Byron’s play, Sardanapalus. The picture shows Sardanapalus, the last king of Assyria, who ordered his concubines to be murdered and his possessions to be destroyed before setting himself on fire, upon learning that he was faced with military defeat. The exotic nature of the scene and the rich colours used by Delacroix made the painting an influential work of French Romanticism.