Territorial Fantasies, Sexual Nuances, and Savage Energy: Orientalism and Tropicality in Eugène Delacroix and Johann Moritz Rugendas





Romanticism, Delacroix, Rugendas, South America, Orientalism, Tropicality


In 1822, the German Romantic painter Johann Moritz Rugendas undertook his famed three-year journey across Brazil. Later, between 1831 and 1846, encouraged by Alexander von Humboldt and other Romantic artists, he would make a second trip through Mexico and South America. In 1832, Eugène Delacroix started a six-month journey to Spain and North Africa as a part of a diplomatic mission. Both artists profusely translated their travels into words and rich images of tropical America and the Orient. Their paintings and illustrations of remote lands and people became milestones in their respective careers while being prime examples of how Europe viewed and perceived the rest of the world in the nineteenth century. In hindsight, they were not only mere agents and promoters of two crucial aesthetic trends of that time: Orientalism and Tropicality but the embodiment of two ways of seeing and imagining the Others. This article places these two artists against each other, contrasting the set of ideas and cultural preconceptions resting behind a sizeable number of paintings, drawings, and illustrations of their Eastern and South American experiences. The central argument is that Tropicality and Orientalism were comparable phenomena based on similar tropes and assumptions. It brings forward recurring themes of Rugendas and Delacroix’s works, such as the eroticisation of female bodies and the linkage between South America and the East with everlasting ideas of violence, adventures, and savageness to prove such an equivalence.


Download data is not yet available.


Arnold, D. (2000) "'Illusory Riches': Representations of the Tropical World, 1840-1950." Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 21(1), pp. 6-18. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9493.00060

Bernard, C. (1971) "Some Aspects of Delacroix's Orientalism." The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 58(4), pp. 123-127.

Bindis, R. (1989) Rugendas en Chile. [Reedición, corregida y aumentada]. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Los Andes.

Cid, G. and Vergara, J. (2011) "Representando la Copia Feliz del Eden. Rugendas: Paisaje e Identidad Nacional en Chile, Siglo XIX." Revista de Historia Social y de las mentalidades, 15, pp. 109-135.

Debret, J.-B. (1834) Voyage pittoresque et historique au Brésil ou séjour d'un artiste français au Brésil depuis 1815 jusqu'en 1831. Paris: Firmin-Didot frères.

Delacroix, E. (1951) The Journal of Eugène Delacroix: a Selection. London: Phaidon Press.

Delacroix, E. (1893) Journal d'Eugène Delacroix. précédé d'une étude sur le maître Tome premier. Edited by P. Flat. Paris: E. Plon, Nourrit et Cie.

Delacroix, E. (1966) Journal de Eugène Delacroix: 1822-1863. Edited by A. Joubin. Paris: Plon (v. 3).

Delacroix, E. (2019) Journey to the Maghreb and Andalusia, 1832: the Travel Notebooks and Other. Translated by M. Hannoosh. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780271090634

Delphi Classics (2016) Complete Paintings of Eugene Delacroix. Hasting: Delphi.

Diener Ojeda, P. (1992) "Rugendas, America de punta a cabo." In: Rugendas, America de punta a cabo: Rugendas y la Araucania. Santiago: Aleda, pp. 13-55.

Diener, P. (2007a) "Lo pintoresco como categoria estetica en el arte de viajeros. Apuntes para la obra de Rugendas." Historia, II(40), pp. 285-309.

Diener, P. (2007b) "Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Exposición Rugendas y Chile. 14 de marzo al 27 de mayo de 2007." Historia (Santiago), 40, pp. 199-204. https://doi.org/10.4067/S0717-71942007000100015

Diener, P. and Costa, M. de F. G. (2012) Rugendas e o Brasil [2a ed.]. Rio de Janeiro: Capivara.

Donato Mello, J. (1973) "Alexandre von Humboldt e o Conde de Clarac. Uma interpretação artística francesa da nossa floresta tropical pelo sábio naturalista alemão." Revista Brasileira de Cultura, 16, pp. 121-136.

Driver, F. and Martins, L. de L. (2005) Tropical Visions in an Age of Empire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226164700.001.0001

Facos, M. (2011) An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203833070

Gates, H. L. (1985) "Editor's Introduction: Writing 'Race' and the Difference It Makes." Critical Inquiry, 12(1), pp. 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1086/448318

Gourou, P. (1953) The Tropical World: its Social and Economic Conditions and its Future Status. New York: Longmans, Green.

Jarmakani, A. (2008) Imagining Arab Womanhood: the Cultural Mythology of Veils, Harems, and Belly Dancers in the U.S. 1st ed. New York; Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Johnson, L. (1981) The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix : a Critical Catalogue, 1816-1831. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Johnson, L. (1963) Delacroix. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Komissarov, B. (1988) "The Expedition of the Academic G.I Langsdorff and his Artists in Brazil." In: A expedição científica de G.I Langsdorff ao Brasil, 1821-1829. Rio de Janeiro: Edições alumbramento.

Lago, T. (1960) Rugendas, pintor romantico de Chile. Santiago: Ediciones de la Universidad de Chile.

Lee, S. (2015) Delacroix. New York: Phaidon.

MacKenzie, J. M. (1998) Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

McSweeney, A. and Hopkins, C. (2017) "Editorial: Spain and Orientalism." Art in Translation, 9(1), pp. 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1080/17561310.2017.1316039

Needham, G. (1982) "Orientalism in France." Art Journal, 42(4), pp. 338-341. https://doi.org/10.1080/00043249.1982.10792821

Nicholson, M. (1995) "Historical Introduction." In: A. von Humboldt, Personal Narratives of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent. London: Penguin, pp. 9-35.

Nochlin, L. (1991) The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-century Art and Society. Boulder: Taylor and Francis.

Noon, P. J. and Riopelle, C. (2015) Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art. London: National Gallery; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Yale University.

O'Brien, D. (2018) Exiled in Modernity: Delacroix, Civilization, and Barbarism. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780271082691

O'Brien, T. J. (1998) Eugène Delacroix and the Pictorial Invention of Orientalism. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Patea, V. (2001) "The myth of the American Adam: a Reassessment." In: Critical Essays on the Myth of the American Adam [1ª ed.]. Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca.

Peltre, C. and Decter, J. (1998) Orientalism in Art. New York: Abbeville Press.

Pratt, M. L. (2007) Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation [2nd ed.]. Florence: Taylor and Francis.

Prettejohn, E. (2005) Beauty and Art 1750-2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Richert, G. (1942) "Johann Moritz Rugendas. Ein deutscher Maler aus der ersten Halfte des 19. Jarhunderts in Ibero-amerika." Ibero-amerikanisches Archiv, 16(3-4), pp. 67-94.

Rosenthal, D. A. (1982) Orientalism, the Near East in French Painting, 1800-1880. New York: Memorial art gallery of the University of Rochester.

Rugendas, J. M. (1835) Malerische Reise in Brasilien. Paris: Engelmann & Cie.

Rugendas, J. M. (1838) Album de trajes chilenos. Santiago: J. B. Lebas.

Said, E. W. (1978) Orientalism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Said, E. W. (2003) Orientalism. London: Penguin Books.

Sharp, J. (2008) Geographies of Postcolonialism. California: SAGE.

Shaw Cable, P. (2002) "From North Africa to the Black Sea: Nineteenth-Century French Orientalist Drawing." Cleveland Studies in the History of Art, 7. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/20079716 [Accessed: 9 July 2020].

Siqueira, B. (2015) "Configurando a América Latina: as visões de Rugendas e Marianne North." 19&20, 10(2).

Smethurst, P. (2013) Travel Writing and the Natural World, 1768-1840. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137030368

Townsend, D. (1997) "The Picturesque." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 55(4), pp. 365-376. https://doi.org/10.1111/1540_6245.jaac55.4.0365

Varisco, D. M. (2007) Reading Orientalism Said and the Unsaid. Washington: University of Washington Press.

Zantop, S. (1997) Colonial Fantasies Conquest, Family, and Nation in Precolonial Germany, 1770-1870. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv11cw4kw



How to Cite

Gaete, M. Ángel . (2022). Territorial Fantasies, Sexual Nuances, and Savage Energy: Orientalism and Tropicality in Eugène Delacroix and Johann Moritz Rugendas. Culture &Amp; History Digital Journal, 11(2), e022. https://doi.org/10.3989/chdj.2022.022