The Daughter of Jephtha (1859 – 1860) by Edgar Degas

The Daughter of Jephtha - Edgar Degas - 1859 - 1860

Artwork Information

TitleThe Daughter of Jephtha
ArtistEdgar Degas
Date1859 - 1860
Art MovementImpressionism
Current LocationSmith College Museum of Art (SCMA), Northampton, MA, US

About The Daughter of Jephtha

“The Daughter of Jephtha” is an early work by the French artist Edgar Degas, dating from 1859-1860. It is an oil on canvas and is categorized as a religious painting. Despite being attributed to the Impressionism movement, which Degas is famously associated with, this particular piece predates his impressionistic works. The painting is housed in the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA) in Northampton, MA, in the United States.

The artwork depicts a dramatic biblical scene in which figures are arranged across the landscape. There is a sense of movement and activity. On the left side of the painting, men on horseback and on foot are gathered, almost colliding into one another in a bustling group, with some carrying weapons, suggesting a scene of return from battle. Their muscular forms and dynamic poses convey an atmosphere of chaotic action.

In contrast, on the right side, there is a more serene grouping of women dressed in classical robes, with their arms reaching out in what appears to be a welcome or an emotional gesture. They are portrayed in lighter, more delicate colors, with a gentleness that contrasts the scene on the left. The background features a muted landscape that provides a neutral setting for the two main clusters of figures.

The division of the canvas into two contrasting halves – the vigorous men on one side and the ethereal women on the other – creates a narrative tension, bringing to life the tragic tale from the Book of Judges in which Jephthah must fulfill a rash vow to sacrifice his daughter after being victorious in battle.

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