Nicolò Paganini—The Marilyn Manson of Violin?

Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix. Paganini, 1831. Oil on cardboard on wood panel; 17 5/8 x 11 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection

Paganini (who died on this day 171 years ago) was a macabre man with supernatural abilities, or at least that’s what he’d like you to think! Apparently, he played the violin so well, people thought he had made a deal with the devil. His dark reputation and astonishing skills left people flocking to his concerts, among them the painter Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix who attended Paganini’s Paris debut at the Opéra in 1831. Shortly thereafter, Delacroix created the portrait of Paganini in The Phillips Collection. I love talking about this painting on tours, and I love comparing it to another portrait of Paganini by Delacroix’s contemporary Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres. I think the two different takes are staggering!

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