Alexandre Marie Colin

1798 - 1875

The Deluge

Oil on canvas signed and dated « A. Colin 1822 » lower right

Dimensions : 146,5 cm x 115,7 cm / 57.48 inch x 45.28 inch
Dimensions with frame : 165 cm x 134,5 cm / 64.96 inch x 52.76 inch
Artwork description

Alexandre Colin took hold of a brief poem written by the Swiss writer Salomon Gessner, Scene of Deluge, which was a success in France since its first publication in 1766. The German text was translated six times into verse and prose until 1824. It exploits the narrative framework of the Genesis Flood and develops a dramatic episode: the death of the two lovers from both the angles of punishment and of salvation. But, Alexandre Colin stood out from a biblical representation, with a melodramatic dual, as Girodet who chose to make the flood a social metaphor unmasking injustice (Scene of the Flood, salon of 1806). Alexandre Colin copied the idea of isolating the two protagonists in a terrifying vision of nature. He represented them naked, haloed with a red cloth. Semire fainted in Semin’s arms at the imminent arrival of death. The two lovers have just sworn eternal love. They find shelter on a rocky mountain which protects them from the cataclysm sent by God to punish corrupt humanity. A wave will swallow them up. Semin’s facial expressions reveal the injustice of their fate. The painter chose to represent individual distress toward divine punishment, without evoking the salvation of their martyrdom. The biblical dimension of the poem is lost in the present painting. The flood became a
pretext for tragic genre scenes. Alexandre Colin shared the Romantics’ attention to morbid themes, already in germ in the late XVIIIth century paintings. Alexandre Colin showed his ability to paint full-length figures. The monumental format is unusual for a genre scene painting. It is very likely that the artist wanted to exhibit the painting at the 1822 Paris Salon. However, he finally preferred to sent to the Salon, two Fables inspired by Jean de Lafontaine and a painting inspired by the novel Le Moine written by Matthieu Gregory Lewis, which had been published twenty years earlier in French. These rare literary subjects were much more suitable to help him distinguish himself among his peers.

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