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The Cover
January 24/31, 2001

Botzaris Surprises the Turkish Camp and Falls Fatally Wounded

JAMA. 2001;285(4):375. doi:10.1001/jama.285.4.375

Begun in 1821 in an effort to throw off nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule, the Greek War of Independence captured the imagination of western Europe. With its reports of heroic deeds and bloody massacres, the topic was a natural for both poets and painters, among them the Romantic poet Lord Byron and the Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). Many years later, as Delacroix approached the end of his life, he recorded one of the decisive battles of the early years of the war in Botzaris Surprises the Turkish Camp and Falls Fatally Wounded (cover ). This relatively small, quickly executed work was the preparatory oil sketch for a larger-than-life painting that had been commissioned by a Greek patrician living in France. Although Delacroix did complete some fragments of the commissioned work, he died before he got very far into it. Meanwhile, the oil sketch is testament to what he had planned. Indeed, with its vivid masses of swirling color and intense action, it conveys—perhaps even more directly than a well-finished six-foot canvas could have done—the heat and emotion of battle and its swiftly changing fortunes. Further, in this fluid, unfinished form we have the privilege of being able to watch someone work—of almost seeing the thoughts as they take shape in the artist's mind and are translated, quickly, to the hand and thence to the canvas in their initial, seminal, and powerful forms.

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