Skip Navigation

Prayer for Death in the Desert

Elihu Vedder

American Art

An American expatriate in Rome from the mid-1860s, Elihu Vedder often undertook mysterious or symbolic subject matter of a kind that was more prevalent in American literature than in painting of the period. Especially drawn to the theme of the isolated soul questing in a bleak landscape, Vedder here depicted a haggard man at the end of a search, yielding himself to an apparently tragic destiny. Although the artist later stated that these ideas emerged from “that rich, romantic sadness of youth,” he based his compositions on extensive figure studies and on-site landscape sketches, in keeping with his academic training in Paris and Rome. The setting for this subject derives from drawings executed in the vicinity of the dramatically eroded white-limestone cliffs of Volterra, Italy.
MEDIUM Oil on canvas
DATES ca. 1867
DIMENSIONS 13 7/8 x 49 5/8 in. (35.2 x 126 cm)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Elihu Vedder (American, 1836–1923). Prayer for Death in the Desert, ca. 1867. Oil on canvas, 13 7/8 x 49 5/8 in. (35.2 x 126 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 55.40 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 55.40_reference_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 55.40_reference_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
This work may be in the public domain in the United States. Works created by United States and non-United States nationals published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, subject to the terms of any applicable treaty or agreement. You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this work. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties, such as artists or artists' heirs holding the rights to the work. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act. The Brooklyn Museum makes no representations or warranties with respect to the application or terms of any international agreement governing copyright protection in the United States for works created by foreign nationals. For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.