This brush drawing is the preliminary study for one of seventeen lithographs executed by the young Delacroix to serve as illustrations to a French edition of Goethe’s “Faust”.
The scene shows the beginning of the Walpurgis Night. Faust and Mephisto are ascending Brocken Mountain at night in order to join the Witches’ Sabbath. Delacroix had come to know the “Faust” material in 1825 during a visit to a London theatre. With his rapid, almost crude brushstrokes, the artist emphasises the inner excitement and drama of the occurrence. Particularly striking are Mephisto’s exalted body language and the manner in which the two figures turn to one another in apparent dialogue. Goethe, by the way, saw some of Delacroix’s lithographs before their publication and offered an expression of praise.
Photo: Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK