religion, Jewish, Judaism; landscape; woman; man; animal; outdoor; dish/bottle: literature, Bible
Although it was never finished, this early, monumental painting is one of Edgar Degas’s most ambitious works. Intended for exhibition at the annual Paris Salon, it incorporates many direct references to works of art by masters from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. The young artist conceived this as a demonstration piece to display not only his painting ability but also his knowledge of art history. Nevertheless, he struggled to marshal its many elements into a unified composition. The legless dog in the foreground is evidence of its incompletion.
In the Old Testament story from the book of Judges, Jephthah vows to sacrifice the first living being he encounters if he is granted victory in battle. Triumph and tragedy meet as Jephthah, mounted on his horse, returns home and encounters his daughter. A figure in white (at upper right), she is surrounded by a group of women who already seem to mourn her fate.