Delacroix’s Education of Achilles (c.1845)
This drawing for a ceiling decoration depicts the education of Achilles by Chiron, the immortal centaur who was thought by the ancients to be a bridge between the natural and spiritual worlds. In this capacity he would have great appeal for artists whose works seemingly based on nature convey the spiritual. Struck by a poisoned arrow which could not kill him because he was immortal, it caused him endless torment. He is consequently recognized as the original wounded healer, an archetype important to prophets, shamans, poets and artists.
The pointing finger on the extended arm of Chiron is extremely important; it “paints” the background and is the pose of an artist stretching to reach his canvas. Yet in touching nothing but the air, the gesture signals his ability to straddle the border between two realities: the natural and spiritual. He is a great master.
On his back rides the young Achilles with bow and arrow aimed in the same direction as Chiron’s finger. He is “Delacroix” who even in middle age was grateful to the older masters who had taught him. The arrow, a traditional symbol in art for a paintbrush, was also the attribute of St. Sebastian whom we have shown elsewhere was virtually the patron saint of artists who paint themselves.
More Works by Delacroix
See what Degas makes of a Delacroix and thus, perhaps, what you should too....
Learn how an artist's sketches and unfinished drawings help explicate a painting
Original Publication Date on EPPH: 05 May 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.