Eugène Delacroix was the acknowledged master of the French Romantic school. In 1832, he traveled to North Africa with the French ambassador, Count de Mornay, who was to negotiate a treaty of friendship with the sultan of Morocco. One day in Tangier, the two hid in an attic and through the cracks of a shuttered window witnessed the frenzy of the Aïssaouas, a fanatical Muslim sect. The turmoil of that event is conveyed in this vividly colored and vigorously brushed depiction of the fanatics hurling themselves down the street. Of the pictures resulting from the Moroccan experiences, this remains one of Delacroix's most arresting.
This painting once belonged to James J. Hill (1838-1916), the Minnesota railroad magnate whose collection of European paintings forms the basis of the Institute's nineteenth-century holdings.