Edme Saint-Marcel was fascinated with animals and made a series of studies of animals, wild beasts, and horses that were very similar to those of Delacroix — whom he often accompanied to the Jardin des Plantes. In addition to this pen and brown ink drawing, the Musée Delacroix possesses two other works by Edme Saint-Marcel: a watercolor entitled Lion and Serpent and a landscape in pen and black ink.
Edme Saint-Marcel occupied a unique place in Delacroix’s entourage. A painter, illustrator, and printmaker, he trained with Charles de Steuben, Théodore Caruelle d’Aligny, and Léon Cogniet before starting to work with Delacroix, and make an ink portrait of the master (Bayonne, Musée Bonnat). Through his education, he acquired a decided fondness for animals. His studies are often very similar to those of Delacroix, although his compositions were his own. Saint-Marcel was also a talented landscapist, and to be closer to nature, he decided to settle in Fontainebleau in 1845, where he painted many landscapes of forests: various winter and spring "effects" that were well received by the critics.
Deeply disappointed that he didn’t achieve his ambitions — he didn’t receive a single award for his work — the artist gradually lost confidence in himself and committed suicide in 1890.
Like Delacroix, Edme Saint-Marcel painted many compositions of animals, which were imbued with such powerful expression that they were sometimes taken for those of the master. Delacroix liked the genre of animal art: his work includes numerous drawings as well as pastels, prints, and paintings representing animals. First and foremost, the master portrayed horses; the influence of Grops and Géricault on his research was decisive. Later, and especially after his trip to Morocco (1832), he became fascinated with portraying felines. These studies formed the basis for an entire series of battles and hunting scenes depicting wild animals. The animal drawings and prints in the Musée Delacroix, such as Tiger Lying in the Desert, Lion Devouring a Horse, Frightened Horse Emerging From the Water, offer a representative sample of one of Delacroix’s favorite themes.
Saint-Marcel often accompanied Delacroix and his friend, the sculptor Barye (1795–1875) on their visits to the zoo at the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle, where they could study animals at leisure. The Musée Bonnat has more than twenty drawings by the artist, which, along with the Louvre’s collection which also includes some twenty drawings, offer an overview of Saint-Marcel’s various styles: wide, forceful pen or pen lines, often highlighted with watercolor.
Georges Denoinville, "Edme Saint-Marcel, peintre, graveur, dessinateur", in La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1902, n° 2, pp. 242-254 et pp. 395-404