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Vincent van Gogh | Pietà (after Delacroix), 1889

Van Gogh based his Pietà on a lithograph of a painting by Eugène Delacroix.
This image of the Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ is, however, more a variation on the original work than a copy.
Van Gogh has taken Delacroix’s theme and composition and added his own colour and personal signature.


The work was prompted by an accident: ‘that lithograph of Delacroix, the Pietà, with other sheets had fallen into some oil and paint and got spoiled.
I was sad about it - then in the meantime I occupied myself painting it, and you’ll see it one day’.
The lithograph, complete with stain, has survived.

Van Gogh was living in the asylum in Saint-Rémy when he painted this work.
It is quite possible that the sick and ‘misunderstood’ artist identified with the suffering Christ: ‘I am not indifferent, and in the very suffering religious thoughts sometimes console me a great deal’, he wrote to his brother Theo.
The painter’s resemblance to the red-bearded Christ figure in this Pietà has not therefore gone unnoticed. | © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Eugène Delacroix | Pietà, 1850 | The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo

Vincent van Gogh | Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat, 1887

Eugène Delacroix | Self-Portrait, 1840