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Ferdinand-Victor-Eug?ne Delacroix, 1798-1863

Turk Stroking His Horse

Description:Read An Essay On This Drawing

Lee Johnson argued for this sheet's attribution to Eugène Delacroix, although its authenticity had long been questioned.1 Citing the artist's journal entry for 2 May 1824, which describes a watercolor of a Turk stroking a horse, Johnson identified the watercolor as a precursor of sorts-at least in terms of its iconography, if not its composition-to the painting Delacroix submitted to the Salon of 1827. Johnson called the signature "impeccable" and noted the quality of the work, placing the drawing in the context of the artist's "early" graphic work dating to about 1824.

Although the sheet has darkened over the years, the delicate treatment and deep, jewel-like tones found here correspond to Delacroix's early essays in the medium and reflect the contacts he had made with English watercolorists. He met Richard Parkes Bonington about 1818 in Paris when the Englishman was setting out on his own to become an artist against his father's advice. More important, at least for this formative period, Delacroix was close with noted watercolorists Thales and Newton Fielding while the two brothers resided in Paris; Delacroix even lived with Thales for a short time in 1823. In 1825, with proceeds in hand from the sale of the Massacre of Chios to the state, Delacroix went to England, where he renewed his friendship with Bonington and continued developing his watercolor technique.

The provenance of this sheet also bears on its authenticity. Charles Eaton traveled to the Middle East and Europe in 1842-44 and in all likelihood acquired this watercolor on that trip. He annotated some of the drawings he collected with the city and year of their acquisition. We know from comparing these annotations and other inscriptions on various drawings with contemporary catalogues that he attended the sale of Alexandre Du Sommerard's drawings collection, which took place in Paris on 18 - 20 December 1843. On a drawing by Pierre-Henri Révoil (1776 -1842) in the Eaton collection, the initials "p.p.c." are recorded and may refer to Philippe Pointel-Chennevières, who in the early 1840s was laying the foundations of a long and illustrious career in the administration of the arts in France. An association between Eaton and French collectors at this level suggests that the American was well connected and lends credence to his attributions.

The taste for small, finished watercolors, such as this one by Delacroix, that could be mounted into albums became popular in the 1820s and 1830s and was an import from England, where the Society of Painters in Watercolours had been founded in 1804 to promote the medium as the equal of oil painting and to expand the market for their art. An increase in the number of exchanges between both the artists and collectors of the two countries was the result of the resumption of diplomatic relations following the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. Delacroix, too, was swept up in the anglomania that followed. In France, the watercolor trend had waned by mid-century, and it was not until 1879 that French watercolorists were able to muster enough support to organize their own exhibitions, in a vein similar to their English counterparts, under the aegis of the Société d'aquarellistes français. Cheryl K. Snay

1. L. Johnson, "Two Orientalist Water-colours by Delacroix," Burlington Magazine 144 (April 2002): 226-28.

Medium: Watercolor and graphite with scraping on dark cream, medium-weight, moderately rough wove paper
Dimensions: Sheet: 168 x 230 mm.; Mount: 172 x 239 mm.
Date: ca. 1824
Category: animal
Subject: Arab Horse Orientalism
Inscriptions and Markings: RECTO: LR, graphite, 'Eug Delacroix'; VERSO: UR, graphite, 'EX 18'
Bibliography: Lee Johnson, 'Two Orientalist water-colours by Delacroix,' The Burlington Magazine 144:1189 (April 2002), pp. 226-228, ill p. 226. Peabody Institute, Gallery of Art: List of Works of Art on Exhibition, October 1900, p. 31 no. 200.
Provenance: Maryland State Archives by transfer, 1996; Johns Hopkins University by transfer 1979; Peabody Institute, Baltimore, by bequest, 1893; Charles J. M. Eaton (1807-1893), Baltimore.
Collection: State of Maryland Archives: Peabody Collection
Credit Line: The Peabody Art Collection. Courtesy of the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property of the Maryland State Archives, on loan to The Baltimore Museum of Art MSA SC 4680-13-0000
Object Number: R.11826.418