Eustache Le Sueur

Darius Hystaspis Opens the Tomb of Nitocry

Darius Hystaspis Opens the Tomb of Nitocry
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Author: Eustache Le Sueur
History Painting, Painting, Oil on canvas, 163x112 cm
Origin: France, Circa 1649

The subject of the painting is taken from an episode in Herodotus's History dealing with the Babylonian queen Nitocris. She ordered that a sepulchre be built for her over the gates in the most frequented part of the city and carved an inscription on it stating that it contained countless riches. For a long time no one dared to approach the burial vault, until the kingdom of Babylonia came under the rule of the Persian King Darius. He opened the burial chamber and found that in place of a treasure there was only mortal remains and an inscription reproaching his greed which had driven him to violate the peace of the dead.

Eustache Le Sueur was a pupil of Simon Vouet. To the magnificent style of his teacher, he added his own innate lyricism and soft colouring. The artist worked very hard to achieve the simplicity and balance of the composition. There are two preparatory drawings known to exist , in which Le Sueur carefully prepared not only the composition of the painting and separate figures, but also a multitude of what would appear to be minor details such as the folds in the draping of Darius's cloak. Having achieved on these sheets the precision of the drawing and the elegance of lines, he then transferred them to the painting and achieved a sensation of lightness and classical correctness of composition.

Personage: Darius
Style: Classicism
Source of entry: Collection of baron L.A. Crozat de Tierra, Paris, 1772
Theme: History

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