religion, Jewish, Judaism; landscape; woman; man; animal; outdoor; dish/bottle: literature, Bible
"The Daughter of Jephthah" is one of Edgar Degas's most ambitious paintings in size, composition and intent. Begun in 1859 after the artist had returned from Italy, the canvas was never brought to completion. This early work, a grand history painting intended for exhibition at the Paris Salon, contrasts with Degas's later Impressionist canvases and ballet subjects. Its unfinished state reveals the young artist's struggle to reconcile a variety of influences and quotations from other masters, ranging from Mantegna in the fifteenth century, to Veronese in the sixteenth, to Delacroix and Ingres in his own. This confrontation of styles set the stage for the biblical drama of Jephthah, called from exile to lead the Israelites against the Ammonites. In the story from chapter eleven in the Book of Judges, Jephthah vows to sacrifice "whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me" if God will grant his army victory in battle. In the painting, the moment of both triumph and tragedy is played out as Jephthah, mounted on his horse among his soldiers carrying the spoils and trophies of war, returns and is met by his daughter. A figure in white gesturing toward her father, she is surrounded by a group of women who already seem to mourn her fate.