Miniature on ivory
Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée Delacroix, 2002
Ovale. H. 0,125 m ; L. 0,100 m
Signed and dated on the right border: M. Herbelin 1855
Created in 1855, the year of Delacroix’s triumph at the Exposition universelle, this small portrait, which depicts the artist wearing the cross of the Commander of the Legion of Honor around his neck, was exhibited at the 1857 Salon under the number 1339, with portraits by Dauzats, Dumas fils, and Rosa Bonheur.
Jeanne-Mathilde Herbelin (née Habert) studied with her uncle Jean Belloc and excelled in the art of miniatures. She won a second-place medal in this discipline in 1844, and first-place medals in 1847, 1848, and 1855. The large majority of portraits she exhibited at the Salon from 1840 to 1877 consisted primarily of anonymous figures, as well as copies after Velázquez, van Dyck, and Rembrandt.
Jeanne-Mathilde Herbelin was a friend of Pauline Villot, apparently a romantic attachment of Delacroix’s for a time. It was through her that Herbelin purchased this painting from Delacroix, The Pilgrims of Emmaüs in 1853 (New-York, Brooklyn Museum of Art), before it was exhibited at the Salon that same year. After the Salon, Delacroix quickly sent her the work, hoping that his client and friend still had the feeling that had "so compelled her to own it, which was an extreme honor to the painting and its author." As it happened, The Pilgrims of Emmaüs had been received harshly by the critics. The museum also has a letter sent to Madame Herbelin and dated 8 May 1853, in which Eugène Delacroix discusses his "pleasure ... of knowing that " this painting was "in [her] hands."
André Joubin, Correspondance générale d’Eugène Delacroix, Paris,1937.