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Baron Antoine-Jean Gros A Mameluke Chief on Horseback

© H. Bregeat / Louvre

Original Lithograph H.36,5cm; W.27,5 cm Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée Eugène Delacroix, 2007 MD 2007-7

© H. Bregeat / Louvre

 

The beginnings of lithography

This print came off the printing press of Charles-Philibert de Lasteyrie (1759-1849), a pioneer French lithographer (with Godefroy Engelmann) who learnt his skills in Munich from Senefelder, the inventor of the process. Lasteyrie moved to Paris in 1815, where he initially made a name for himself by publishing a series of facsimiles of autograph letters of King Henri IV, together with botanical and natural history illustrations, musical scores, and reproductions of administrative circulars (on behalf of the State). He perfected his technique and, in his desire to elevate it to the status of art, called on established artists such as Michalon, Vauzelle, Carle and Horace Vernet, Charlet, Jean-Baptiste Isabey, and Vivant Denon from 1817 onward. He even lent lithographic stones to society ladies, the better to disseminate the new process and establish his reputation. He managed to interest Baron Gros, who made his only two lithographs for Lasteyrie in 1817: An Arab in the Desert and A Mameluke Chief on Horseback. The latter often features in books on the beginnings of lithography as an example of "incunabula" (the term used in the lithographic field).

Delacroix and Baron Gros

It is therefore interesting to compare this work with Delacroix’s first attempts at lithography. But its chief interest for the Musée Delacroix is that it illustrates the work of one of Delacroix’s masters, even though he chose to join Guérin’s studio (after some hesitation). Delacroix was still expressing his admiration for Gros in 1848, in a long article for the Revue des Deux Mondes. With its Orientalist subject, high-spirited horse, and Nubian slave, this print contains a number of elements that reflect a source of inspiration shared by both artists.

Documentation

Michael Henker, Karlheinz Scherr and Elmar Stolpe, in De Senefelder à Daumier, les débuts de l’art lithographique, Munich, 1988, p. 222 224.

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