Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, The Funeral of Atala, 1808

This Neo-Classical painting was inspired by the novella Atala written by François-René de Chateaubriand in 1801. The novella tells of Chactas, a young Native American from the Natchez nation who falls in love with Atala, a young woman who is of both Native American and European blood. She helps him escape a sticky situation and the pair shelter in a Christian mission during a violent storm. Atala reveals that she has taken an oath of chastity and cannot marry Chactas. In despair she poisons herself. It is only then that the missionary Aubrey tells her that Christians can renounce their vows, but by then it’s too late. Chactas and Aubrey bury Atala at the mission.

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