Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Katherine Wells

Second Advisor

Elena Gorfinkel


Byron, Delacroix, Gender, Masculinity, Sardanapalus


This thesis discusses the gender standards as portrayed in Lord Byron's play Sardanapalus (1824) and Eugène Delacroix's painting Death of Sardanapalus (1828). These Romantic artists were part of a movement that changed gender rules forever. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought about a culture that was more visual than ever and symbols of gender identity were everywhere. Rules of masculinity evolved from valuing raw power to including middle class virtues like moderation. Women continued to be objects of male desire but also began to represent the nation and its history. To explore the specific gender relationships within Byron's play and Delacroix's painting, this thesis analyzes both works and builds on existing scholarship to provide a new analysis that changes the way we look at Sardanapalus. Even though Byron is cited as the source for Delacroix's painting, their approaches to gender are vastly different. Byron presents an alternative ideal man in Sardanapalus while Delacroix rejects this new ideal and depicts Sardanapalus as a weak king, relaxing in a corner while destruction is all around him.