Skip to contentSkip to navigation
Become a Member
Explore today's schedule
Visit MMFA for free by becoming a Member
Learn more
Back
Currently shown
Eugène Isabey

The Burial at Sea of a Marine Officer Serving under Louis XVI

Artist

Eugène Isabey
Paris 1803 – Montévrain, France, 1886

Title

The Burial at Sea of a Marine Officer Serving under Louis XVI

Date

1836

Materials

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

243.5 x 166 cm

Credits

Purchase, Adrienne D'Amours Pineau and René Pineau Memorial Fund, the Museum Campaign 1988-1993 Fund, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Volunteer Association Fund and the Leacross Foundation Fund, inv. 2013.70

Collection

Western Art

Isabey dreamed of becoming a sailor. Refusing to relinquish his passion, he became a marine specialist. Inspired by English painters, notably Constable and Turner, this romantic artist painted the ocean in all its moods. A perfectionist, he attended to every detail and enthusiastically embraced the innovations in naval construction. “Isabey is the only painter capable of building a boat,” said Jongking, one of his students.


Exhibited in the Salon of 1836, The Burial at Sea of a Marine Officer Serving under Louis XVI elicited surprise. The subject is impressive: the stormy sky, the rough sea, the sails flapping in the wind and the body, enveloped in a white shroud, thrown into the sea at the sound of the canon, marking the absolution of a marine officer whose identity remains unknown. This painting recalls the sad metaphor of the human condition—the indentured sailor recruited from childhood—provided by Victor Hugo: “He alone battles as waves grow steep / He sails into the deep and into the night / Hard work! all is black, all is cold, without light.” Alfred de Musset spoke of the work as a tour de force: “In my opinion, this canvas merits fulsome praise. The execution is magnificent, and the composition so forceful that it stuns at first sight. I have heard the artist reproached for having shown but a part of the vessel. Nothing could be more undeserved, as it is precisely this rough portrayal that lends the scene its power.”

A touch of culture to your inbox
Subscribe to the Museum newsletter

Bourgie Hall Newsletter sign up

This website uses cookies in order to optimize your browsing experience and for promotional purposes. To learn more, please see our policy on the protection of personal Iinformation