Attila and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts (detail)

Delacroix decorated the walls of the library of the Palais Bourbon: two great semidomes eleven metres by eight situated on either side of the room. Delacroix decided to decorate them with allegorical subjects, one representing barbarity, Attila and His Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts, and the other civilisation: Orpheus Civilizes the Greeks. There were in addition five little domes or bays, which would present the divisions adopted in all libraries, while not following the classification too exactly: Sciences, Philosophy, Legislation, Theology and Poetry.

By making such a striking contrast between his two allegorical subjects, Delacroix contrived to symbolise War and Peace, the two poles of human conduct.