Death of Nessus

Death of Nessus

History paintings

The story is drawn from Book 9 of Ovid's Metamorphoses: Hercules had asked the centaur Nessus to carry his wife Deianeira (or Dejanira) across the mighty river Evinos; but once on the other side, Nessus attempted to carry her off and rape her, and Hercules killed him with an arrow tipped with the venom of the Hydra of Lerna.

In this dramatic scene Delaunay relishes using shapes modelled on those of the Carracci and Pietro da Cortona.

There is something eerie about the Dejanira figure being borne away by the horse-man. Built on a succession of horizontals, the composition is characterised by a muted palette reminiscent of that of Gustave Moreau, a friend from Delaunay's Roman days.

Death of Nessus
Death of Nessus
1870
Oil on canvas
95 x 125 cm
S.B.L: J. Elie Delaunay - Deposited by the French state, 1885
Inv. 916