Label Copy: Delacroix was commissioned in 1838 to decorate the library ceiling of the Palais Bourbon, the seat of the Chambre des Députés (the French parliament), a project he completed in 1844. Undertaking such an enormous project placed Delacroix within a tradition of large-scale architectural painting that included artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Rubens. The decorative scheme for the library focused on different kinds of knowledge, and the classical figures depicted in the curved pendentives of the ceiling reflect these sources of wisdom. In this instance, the ancient Spartan ruler, Lycurgus, consulted the Pythia (also known as the Delphic oracle) regarding the laws Lycurgus had devised for Sparta; the oracle’s role in the story was to suggest the presence of the divine in the just rule of man, thus rendering the subject appropriate to the seat of the elected French government. This small painting may well be a preparatory sketch for the final painting, which would have been executed by assistants but finished by Delacroix himself. However, based on stylistic considerations, this canvas may be a variant on the ceiling composition. Delacroix painted a number of such variants following the completion of the ceiling, with the brushwork and coloring typical of Delacroix’s most advanced style during these years.