Young Martyr by Paul Delaroche - 1855 - 67.3 × 58.3 in Musée du Louvre Young Martyr by Paul Delaroche - 1855 - 67.3 × 58.3 in Musée du Louvre

Young Martyr

oil on canvas • 67.3 × 58.3 in
  • Paul Delaroche - July 17, 1797 - November 4, 1856 Paul Delaroche 1855

The Young Martyr represents both Delaroche's emphasis on historical accuracy and flair for drama and emotionality in painting as The Young Martyr depicts the historical martyrdom of a Christian, while, at the same time, an otherworldly halo, emanating above the Martyr’s forehead, emphasizes the painting’s dramatic, emotional effect.

On the surface, The Young Martyr depicts the sacrifice of a young Christian woman into the Tiber River. The painting alludes to the martyrdom Christians under the rule of the Roman emperor Diocletian- when Christians were systematically persecuted for their religious beliefs. About nineteen years into his reign, however, Diocletian, a polytheist, instituted the systematic persecution of Christians with the Diocletianic Persecution of 303-311 AD. Under these laws, Christians were expected to sacrifice and honor gods they themselves did not believe in, under penalty of imprisonment or death. 

It should also be noted, however, that Delaroche opted to depict the martyrdom of a "female" Christian in The Young Martyr. Doing so could be a part of Delaroche’s response to the death of his wife, Louise Vernet, in 1845, whom he was known to have included as a figure in many of his paintings, for homage.

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