Eugene Delacroix seemed to have controversy and anguish follow him all of his life. From a mysterious birthright to periods of grief, disappointment, and poverty, Delacroix turned to his art to express his emotions during times of crisis. Delacroix believed that the 'demon' was the source of creativity. He said once, "The artist is the man who lives with a demon who breathes in his ear inspirations." Perhaps that is why the Faust series, which centered around a 'demon' figure, was so important to him. 

An avid reader, his life-long love affair with literature provided him with endless subjects for his pictures. More than one hundred of his works were derived from literary sources, although it was rare for Delacroix to illustrate a text. Nevertheless, he did produce a series of seventeen (some refer to nineteen) lithographs to accompany a translation of Goethe's Faust. For the subjects, Delacroix chose the highest moments of the drama. Faust and Mephistopholes on the Witches Sabbath is the second to last print in the series (the last being Faust and Margarite in Prison). In this scene Faust and Mephistopholes are riding to where Margarite is imprisoned. They come to an open field where a witches guild is preparing the gallows, symbolic of the judgment of Margarite. The French text appears below the image. Faust is clutching on for his dear life, his hand behind his back in a cautionary gesture. Mephistopholes is very much in control, hat in place, no reins, no saddle. The scene would be difficult to "stage"; having a conversation while these two steeds gallop wildly by is improbable. But, Delacroix does make this scene work, and the viewer is struck by the imagery rather than the improbability. Riding a horse with 'possessed eyes', Mephistopholes is a very eerie figure.

The deep blacks of his lithographic crayon record light in conflict with shadow, and heighten the sense of doom and violence. Delacroix used his fingernails, pins and needles to create interesting lithographic effects. A ghost image of a signature is scratched in the lower right corner. One of Delacroix's biggest fans was Goethe himself, who praised the Faust series by claiming that Delacroix found his "proper food" and "surpassed my [Goethe's] own pictures of the scenes I myself wrote." Goethe saw Delacroix's attempts as successful, and so did the public. Financial success with this series (published in 1829) and another based on Shakespeare's Hamlet saved Delacroix from financial ruin. 

from Wake Forest Collection


T is for transformative, transmuting, tempest and temptation


Tales about Faust

When Dr. Faust was in Heilbronn, performing his troublesome arts throughout the region, he often went to Boxberg Castle, where he was always courteously received. Once he was there on a cold winter's day, strolling with the lords and ladies of the palace along the garden paths on the east side of the castle. The ladies complained about the frost, and he immediately caused the sun to shine warmly, the snow-covered ground to turn green, and a mass of violets and beautiful flowers of every kind to spring forth. Then at his command the trees blossomed, and -- following the desires of the group -- apples, plums, peaches, and other good fruit ripened on the branches. Finally he caused grape vines to grow and bear grapes. He then invited each of his companions to cut off a grape, but not before he gave the signal to do so. When all of them were ready to cut away he removed the deception from their eyes, and each one saw that he was holding a knife against the nose of the person next to him. The part of the garden where this took place has ever since been called "the violet garden." Another time Faust left Boxberg Castle at a quarter past eleven in order to be at a banquet in Heilbronn at the last strike of twelve o'clock. He got into his carriage hitched to four black horses and drove away like the wind, and he did indeed arrive in Heilbronn punctually at the strike of twelve. A man working in a field saw how horned spirits paved the way before the carriage, while others pulled up the paving stones from behind and carried them away, thus destroying every trace of the pavement.

Dr Faust in Erfurt

At one time the renowned Dr. Faust sojourned in Erfurt. He lived in Michelsgasse next to the great Collegium.

As a learned professor and with the permission of the academic senate he lectured in the large auditorium of the Collegium Building about Greek poets. Indeed, he explained Homer to his audience, the students, describing the heroic figures of the Iliad and the Odyssey so realistically that the students expressed their desire to see them with their own eyes. He made this possible, conjuring them up from the underworld, but when the students saw the powerful giant Polyphemus, they all became terrified and wanted to see or hear nothing more from him.

He drove through the narrowest street in Erfurt with a double-span load of hay, for which reason this street has ever since been called "Dr. Faust's Street."

Once he came riding a horse that ate and ate and could never be satisfied.

Another time he tapped all kinds of wine from a wooden table and made the drunken drinking companions think that they saw grapes. They wanted to cut them from the vines, but when he caused the deceptive image to disappear, each one had another one's nose in his fingers instead of wine grapes.

A house in Schössergasse is said to still have an opening in the roof that can never be closed with roofing tiles because Faust used it for his cloak rides.

He is said to have created a magnificent winter garden and provided delicious meals for numerous noble guests, thus achieving a high reputation.

Soon everyone in Erfurt was talking of nothing but Dr. Faust, and it was feared that a great many people would be led astray through his devilish arts.

Thus a learned monk by the name of Dr. Klinge was sent to convert him. But Faust did not want to be converted. In response to the masses and prayers directed at tearing him away from the devil, Dr. Faust said, "No, my good Dr. Klinge, it would be disreputable for me to break the contract that I signed with my blood. That would be dishonest. The devil has honestly upheld his promises, and I will also keep my word with him."

"Then go to the devil, you cursed piece of devil's meat and member of the devil's band!" cried the monk angrily. "Go to the eternal fires that have been prepared for the devil and his angels!" And the monk ran to Rector Magnificus and reported to him that Dr. Faustus was a totally unrepentant sinner.

Then Faust was banished from the city of Erfurt, and never again has a sorcerer been accepted there.

Faust Legends translated by D Ashliman