Its most dominant feature is a large divan, with its golden elephants, on which a nude prostrates herself and beseeches the apathetic Sardanapalus for mercy. Sardanapalus (Detail) had ordered his possessions destroyed and concubines murdered before immolating himself, once he learned that he was faced with military defeat.
Death of Sardanapalus is based on the tale of Sardanapalus, the last king of Assyria, from the historical library of Diodorus Siculus, the ancient Greek historian, and is a work of the era of Romanticism. This painting uses rich, vivid and warm colours, and broad brushstrokes. It was inspired by Lord Byron's play Sardanapalus (1821), and in turn inspired a cantata by Hector Berlioz, Sardanapale (1830), and also Franz Liszt's opera, Sardanapale (1845–52, unfinished).