This large painting depicts the last hours of the life of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, as Delacroix admired the Stoics and particularly Marcus Aurelius. The character is represented in the
center of the painting as an old, sick man who grabs the arm of a young man dressed in red, namely his son Commodus (Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus). Commodus seems not to pay attention to
what his father wants him to say and has a haughty look. Around them, Marcus Aurelius' philosopher friends who are present around the bed are portrayed as sad men dressed in black.
Thus, the painting represents the end of the Roman Empire. Delacroix, who was fascinated by the red color after his travel to North Africa in 1832, draws the viewer's attention to Commodus by garbing him in bright red. It appears that the painting has no moral aspect, as the message that Delacroix wanted to convey in this work remains unknown.