The Abduction of Rebecca by Eugene Delacroix

As a rich source for exotic and dramatically violent themes, the novels of Sir Walter Scott were immensely popular with Romantic painters. Delacroix, despite his reservations about their literary merit, repeatedly found inspiration in these writings. This picture, painted in 1846 and exhibited in the Salon of that year, illustrates an episode from Scott's Ivanhoe, in which the beautiful Rebecca is carried off by two Saracen slaves at the command of the Christian knight who has long coveted her. Intense drama is created as much by the contorted poses and compacted space as by the artist's use of vivid color. Contemporary critics, including Baudelaire, praised the work's spontaneity and power.

Throughout his career, Delacroix was inspired by the novels of Sir Walter Scott, a favorite author of the French Romantics. This painting depicts a scene from Ivanhoe: the Jewish heroine Rebecca, who had been confined in the castle of Front de Boeuf (seen in flames), is carried off by two Saracen slaves commanded by the covetous Christian knight Bois-Guilbert. The contorted, interlocking poses and compacted space, which shifts abruptly from the elevated foregound to the fortress behind, create a sense of intense drama. Apart from the still life at lower left, the only element of calm is Rebecca herself.