Faust and Mephistopheles in the Harz Mountains (Faust et Mephistopheles dans les Montagnes du Harz)

MAKER:
Artist

Eugène Delacroix ( French, 1798 - 1863 )

DATE:
1827
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General Description

For Eugène Delacroix, lithography lent itself to the spontaneity of line and painterly composition of romanticism. This is one of seventeen lithographs Delacroix made based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, which he saw in London in 1827. His prints were published in Albert Stapfer's French translation the following year. Upon viewing the series, Goethe praised the illustrations as exceeding his own imagination. Delacroix's early attempt at lithography utilizes the medium's fullest range of light to dark—from the deepest blacks in the trees and undergrowth to the white of the mountain tops in the background.

Delacroix depicted Mephistopheles leading Faust up the Harz Mountains to reach the highest peak where they would witness Walpurgis Night. Still observed by many European communities, the event occurs on April 30, and according to folklore, the night marks a meeting of witches at this elevated location.

Adapted from

DMA unpublished material.

Fun Facts

  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust (Part 1) was a play published in 1808 and based upon a German legend that was interpreted through numerous books, musical scores, and works of art.

  • The tale of Faust and his pact with the Devil led to the short-hand term "Faustian," a word used to describe a person who chooses achievement in exchange for their moral principles.

  • The passage from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (1808) illustrated in the lithograph reads: Mephistopheles: “Now grasp my doublet—we at last/ A central peak have reached, which shows,/ If round a wondering glance we cast,/ How in the mountain Mammon glows.”

  • “You ask me what gave me the idea for my Faust engravings. . . . It was chiefly the performance of a dramatic opera on Faust which I saw in London which stimulated me to do something on the subject. The actor, Terry . . . was an accomplished Mephistopheles; his stoutness did not detract from his agility and Satanic character.” (Eugène Delacroix in a letter to art critic Philippe Burty, 1862)

Web Resources

  • Faust (1828)
    See the rest of Delacroix's illustrations and read the entire edition of this book (in French) through "Reading Europe," The European Library.