Caesar and His Fortune

Caesar and His Fortune

History paintings

Upright in the rear of a small boat, his face turned towards the helmsman who is gesturing anxiously with his left hand, Caesar is speaking the historic sentence reported by Plutarch: "Fear not, you are carrying Caesar and his fortune." Meanwhile the oarsmen, naked to the waist, are sending the boat forward.

The episode is a reference to the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey. After crossing the Rubicon and driving Pompey out of Italy, Caesar resolved to pursue his enemy, who had fled to Greece.
While his troops remained in Italy, Caesar had to cross the straits of Brindisi inconspicuously, disguised as a slave. Caught in a storm, the boat finally had to turn back. (Plutarch's Lives, vol. 2, Digireads.com, pp. 149-81)

Historical background

In its colour and sense of movement this painting owes a great deal to Rubens, but also reminds us of Delacroix's Dante and Virgil in Hell (1822, Paris, Musée du Louvre)..

It earned Delaunay second place in the Rome Prize – a disappointment he overcame the following year by coming in first.

Caesar and His Fortune
1855
Oil on canvas
114 x 146,5 cm
Viau Bequest, 1899
Inv. 921