Miskatonic University Press

Delacroix and Marcus

art quotes stoicism

I’m reading The Journal of Eugene Delacroix (it should be Eugène, but that’s how it’s written; edited by Hubert Wellington, translated by Lucy Norton, first published by Phaidon in 1951, but, as I noted a couple of years ago, now out of print) and am surprised and pleased to discover Delacroix knew the Stoics well. I don’t know if he considered himself one, so I’ll have to check some biographies.

From 20 February 1847:

Moralists and philosophers (I mean true philosophers, like Marcus Aurelius and Jesus Christ) never talked politics, they considered their subject only from the human standpoint. Equal rights and other such vain imaginings were not their concern; all they enjoined upon mankind was resignation to fate, not the unknown fatum of the ancient world, but to the constant need to submit to the harsh decrees of nature—a need which no one can deny and no philanthropist can overcome. They asked nothing more of the sage than that he conform to the laws of nature and play his part in his appointed place amidst a general harmony. Illness, death, poverty, spiritual suffering, these are with us always and will torment us under any form of government; democracy or monarchy, it makes no odds.

Here’s his 1844 painting Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius:

Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (1844)
Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (1844)

This line from 24 June 1849 is very wise:

As we grow older we are forced to realize that almost everything wears a mask, but we gradually become less resentful of deceptive appearances and grow accustomed to making the best of what we see.