Death of Ophelia
Eugène Delacroix French
Subject William Shakespeare British
Not on view
In 1834 Delacroix began a series of lithographs devoted to Hamlet, creating moody images that mirror the troubled psyche of the prince. Choosing key scenes and poetic passages, the artist's highly personal and dramatic images were unusual in France, where interest in Shakespeare developed only in the nineteenth century. Here, Ophelia, whose mind has become unhinged by the murder of her father Polonius, and rejection by Hamlet, has fallen into a stream while picking flowers, and her water-logged gown will soon drag her down to "muddy death." This sad event takes place offstage and is poetically described in act 4, scene 7 by Queen Gertrude. Gihaut frères published the artist's thirteen-print set in 1843, with a second expanded edition of sixteen issued by Bertauts in 1864. Cooly received at first, the prints eventually were recognized as one of the artist's most significant achievements.