The picture shows the Justice (260 x 1100 cm), the Mediterranean (300 x 118 cm) and the Ocean (300 x 118 cm).
By a decree dated 31 August, 1833, Delacroix was commissioned to undertake his first state decoration, that of the Salon du Roi or Throne Room of the Palais Bourbon. This was the first of a succession of major commissions, on which Delacroix continued to lavish his talents until illness intervened. Between 1833 and 1854, Delacroix's monumental compositions spread across the Salon du Roi, the Library of the Palais du Luxembourg, the Galerie d'Apollon in the Louvre and the Salon de la Paix in the Hotel de Ville.
This was a different matter from even the largest easel paintings. Delacroix had now to exercise his imagination on huge surfaces of very various shape: domes, ceilings, semidomes, friezes, pilasters, and coffering. The essence of decorative painting is unity with the architectural framework that it invests. It was this aspect of the commissions that offered Delacroix the greatest opportunity for experiment and enabled him to give of his best.
Like Michelangelo when he began the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, Delacroix knew nothing about the technique of fresco. So before executing the first commission, Delacroix spent several weeks with his family in the abbaye de Valmont, in Normandy, experimenting with fresco. These experiments enabled him to invent his own technique. Aware of the limitations of distemper, and noting that fresco did not easily adapt to the climate, he decided to paint the walls of the Salon du Roi with oil, to which he added a little colourless wax or encaustic. This allowed him to imitate the mat surface of fresco and protect the colours from the effects of damp; it also made it possible to retouch his work, which the use of distemper would have ruled out. This was the technique that he used for all subsequent decorations.
Throughout 1837, Delacroix worked alone on the Salon du Roi, accepting assistance only for certain ornaments, and in 1838, the public could finally admire the finished work. It comprised four large sections of a coffered ceiling each decorated with a large allegorical figure in classical dress: Justice, Agriculture, Industry and War. In addition, there were four little coffers representing Putti bearing emblems. On the pilasters, he personified the rivers of France and the seas or oceans that they flow into, such as The Garonne and The Mediterranean. A frieze running round the upper wall above the windows and doors echoes these themes, contrasting the evils of war with the virtues of justice, industry and agriculture.
The altarpiece called Linaioli Tabernacle was executed for the Arte dei Linaioli (Guild of Flaxmakers). The central panel depicting the Madonna and the Child is surrounded by a band of 20 cm width which contains 12 angels playing different musical instruments. This band can be seen only when the tabernacle is open. These angels are among the most famous and most popular paintings of Fra Angelico.
This striking portrait, painted in Venice, shows a thoughtful young man, richly dressed and dramatically set against a black background. His thick ginger hair, partly hidden by his dark hat, frames his face. The small part of his red shirt showing adds a dramatic touch of colour. Charles I acquired this work for the Royal Collection.
The sitter was identified as Burkard von Speyer after it was realized that he looks just like the man in a miniature in Weimar by an unknown artist, also dated 1506 and inscribed with his name. Nothing more is known about him, although presumably he originally came from Speyer, a town on the Rhine near Heidelberg. Burkard von Speyer also appears in The Altarpiece of the Rose Garlands. Wearing the same clothing, he is on the left side of the picture, just to the right of the first kneeling cardinal.