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Vincent van Gogh | Pietà (after Delacroix), 1889

Pietà (after Delacroix)

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, September 1889 Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)
oil on canvas, 73 cm x 60.5 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

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