"Paul Delaroche was a French painter and sculptor. He became famous for his depictions of historical scenes. The first painting that brought him to fame was his rendition of The Death of Queen Elizabeth which was the first of a series of history paintings designed to show parallels between events in English history and contemporary conflicts in France. Most often these particular works showed women and children in gothic distress as can be admired in paintings such as The Princes in the Tower and The Young Martyr.
The Young Martyr was completed in 1855, the year before his death. The painting is a depiction of the death of a young female Christian Martyr in the 3rd Century A.D during the reign of the Roman Emperor Dioletian. This painting is sometimes referred to as the Christian Ophelia because of its resemblance to Shakespeare’s character Ophelia in Hamlet. The similarities lie in the assumption that both characters drowned. One difference is that Ophelia took her own life while The Young Martyr had her life taken from her.
The painting, although undoubtedly beautiful is also disturbing. It is disturbing not only for its subject matter, but because there is something so life-like about the girl despite the obvious fact that she is dead. When looking at the painting, it feels as if she has only just died. The feeling evoked is so strong; one almost feels that if only one could have been present a few seconds previously one might have been able to prevent her death. There is a dark figure in the upper left hand corner that appears to be a man on a horse riding away. Presumably, he is the instrument of The Young Martyr’s untimely demise.”