Hamlet et Ophélie (Act III, Scene 1); from the series of 16 prints, Hamlet

Accession Number

Hamlet et Ophélie (Act III, Scene 1); from the series of 16 prints, Hamlet

Eugène Delacroix

Artist Nationality
French (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
circa 1834-1843

Medium & Support
lithograph on chine appliqué

9 1/2 in x 7 3/4 in (24.13 cm x 19.68 cm);9 3/8 in x 7 5/8 in (23.81 cm x 19.37 cm);22 3/8 in x 15 3/4 in (56.83 cm x 40.01 cm);28 in x 22 in (71.12 cm x 55.88 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
Delacroix depicted literary subjects as early in his career as the Barque of Dante of 1822, and continued to turn to them frequently through his mature years. Goethe, Byron, and other writers were sources for Delacroix’s work, but it was Shakespeare who provided particular inspiration. During the artist’s trip to London in 1825 he had attended several performances of Shakespeare and witnessed some of the greatest English-speaking actors of the century, including Edmund Kean and Charles Mayne Young. Two years later a touring company came to Paris, where Delacroix again saw dramas by the English playwright. Like other artists in the audience in the Paris performances, including Hector Berlioz, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas, Delacroix enthusiastically embraced Shakespeare’s plays. For Delacroix, it was both the high drama of the plays and the individual characterizations of the protagonists that made Shakespeare so compelling. "The poverty of our poets deprives us of tragedies made for us," he said. "We lack creative geniuses. Shakespeare is too much of an individualist, his beauties and effusions spring from too inventive a mind for us to be completely satisfied when modern writers try to produce plays based on the Shakespearean model. He is not a man who can be plundered; his works cannot be compressed."
In 1834 Delacroix began a series of sixteen lithographs based on Hamlet. In this image, depicting Act III, scene 1, Hamlet is seen conversing with Ophelia. The rich play of light and dark delineates a scene set amid a spare interior. Particular emphasis is given to the faces and hands of the figures as they are seen illuminated by the window at the upper right. Highlights are achieved by scraping through the surface of the crayon drawing, thus increasing the dramatic impact of the figures.

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