The poet Ovid is shown in exile after being banished from Rome by the Emperor Augustus in AD 8 to the Black Sea port of Tomis in south east Romania, where he probably died ten years later. According to classical writers, the native Scythians fed on the milk of mares, and in the right foreground of this painting Delacroix has depicted a mare being milked.
Delacroix had first painted this subject in 1844 as part of the decorations for the ceiling of the Library of the Palais Bourbon in Paris. Many of the figures designed for that site reappear in this later canvas.
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Ovid among the Scythians
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