The painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) had an apartment, studio and garden in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter of the sixth arrondissement in Paris for the last five-and-a-half years of his life, while he was working on the decoration of a chapel at the nearby church of Saint-Suplice.
Delacroix was a prolific artist whose works can be seen throughout the world, but he is probably best known for his painting ‘Liberty leading the people’, which will be included in the big Delacroix exhibition at the Louvre in Paris from March 29 to July 23, 2018.
Ordinarily this painting on display in room 77 on the first floor of the Denon wing of the Louvre, but that room is closed as of January 2018.
His apartment, studio and garden at 6 Rue de Furstenberg were saved from destruction by the Society of the Friends of Eugène Delacroix. The society donated the property to the French government in 1954, and in 1971 it became a national museum. The property is also listed as a French Historical Monument, which is why you can find its location, aerial view and photo on monumentum.fr.
The plaque reads: “Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix lived in this house until the end of his life 13 August 1863.”
Delacroix’s garden was restored in 2012 and now looks much the same as it must have looked while the painter lived there, though he did not paint any pictures of the garden or leave an exact description.
The Delacroix Museum would no doubt be a pleasant and interesting place to visit on a weekday morning (except on Tuesdays, when it is closed), but I made the mistake of going there on a Saturday afternoon in 2014 and found it to be extremely crowded. It was certainly large enough to be the living and work space for one person, but as a ‘national museum’ it is unusually small.
Four years later I tried again (because I had been to the Louvre the day before, and all Louvre tickets are good for admission to the Delacroix Museum on the same or the next day), and again it was quite full, but this time because a five-person television crew was filming a tour and discussion on Oriental themes in Delacroix’s paintings.
When I came in three of the curators were having a discussion, on camera, of Delacroix’s painting The Death of Sardanapalus, which caused a scandal when it was first displayed in 1827. Sardanapalus was supposed to have been an ancient Assyrian king who was defeated in battle. Rather than surrender, he decided to commit suicide, but first he had all his wives, eunuchs, concubines, slaves and horses put to death by obedient servants who evidently didn’t dare disobey his orders. This particular painting (above) is not the original, but a copy made years later by Frédéric Villot (1809-1875) under Delacroix’s direction.
A few blocks away, in the Saint Suplice church, are the paintings that Delacroix was working on during these last years of his life. This one (above) illustrates an obscure story from the Bible, specifically from Genesis 32:22-32. Jacob gets up at night, takes his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons across the river, along with all his possessions, then goes back alone and spends the rest of the night wrestling with a mysterious “man” who might have been an angel or perhaps even God. Jacob wins, but comes away limping and with a new name, Israel.
In the same alcove of Saint Suplice church (the first alcove on the right as you enter through the front door), is another large painting by Delacroix. This one shows the Syrian prime minister Heliodorus being forcibly ejected from the Temple of Jerusalem, where he was sent by King Seleucus IV Philopator to steal the treasures.
My photos in this post are from 2014 and 2018. I revised the text in 2018.