Musée National Eugène Delacroix

Chest (sunduk)

© RMN / G. Blot

Morocco
Carved and painted wood, pigments, metal
H. 0.66 m; W. 1.56 m; D. 0.53 m
MD 2002-185
Donated by Mme Veuve Etienne Cournault to the Société des Amis d’E. Delacroix, 1952; transferred to the Musée E. Delacroix in 2002

This chest-or sunduk-of Moroccan origin is decorated with a frieze of intricately carved arcatures resting on slender columns, against a background dotted with flowerets, palmettes, and floral elements. It was part of the splendid collection of objects that Eugène Delacroix brought back from his trip to Morocco in 1832. In his will, the painter bequeathed "two chests from Morocco and all the objects from Algiers" to his friend, the Orientalist painter Charles Cournault (1815 - 1904), part of whose collection was later transferred to the Musée Delacroix.

 

This resinous wood chest was doubtless a wedding chest. It consists of a parallelepiped on a wider pyramidal base, and must once have stood on legs that are now sadly missing. The center of the base is adorned with an intricately carved empty cartouche. The chest is decorated with a frieze of elaborately carved arcatures resembling Moorish arcs supported by slender columns. The whole object is dotted with flowerets, palmettes, and floral elements. The top of the chest is simply decorated with a red scrolled frame on a blue background.

Delacroix’s trip to Morocco

From January to June 1832, Delacroix travelled to Morocco with the diplomatic delegation of the Comte de Mornay, ambassador extraordinary from King Louis-Philippe to Sultan Moulay Abd-el-Rahman. Delacroix was enchanted by the beauty of the African light and the natural nobility of spirit of the people, finding the reality to be far removed from the picturesque clichés spread by the Orientalist vogue. He made a multitude of notes and sketches, which served as inspiration for many future masterpieces. He also brought back a number of souvenirs including ceramics, weapons, textiles, musical instruments, and two Moroccan chests, and used these objects to illustrate his Orientalist works. The decorative painted chest with its (recently restored) orange tones on which the young woman leans in the Jewish Musicians of Mogador (Musée du Louvre) recalls the chest on display in the Musée Delacroix.

Charles Cournault and Delacroix

The museum owns some of Delacroix’s souvenirs of Morocco, which were donated to the Société des Amis d’Eugène Delacroix by Etienne Cournault, the grandson of Charles Cournault (1815 - 1904). Delacroix met and befriended this Orientalist painter in 1837; the two artists shared a fascination with North Africa, where Cournault made three trips in 1840, 1843, and 1846. Their friendship lasted until Cournault moved to Lorraine in 1855. Delacroix did not forget him however, and bequeathed his collection of Moroccan objects to Charles Cournault in his will.

Documentation

Lee Johnson, "La collection Charles Cournault", in Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français, 1978, p. 249 - 262

Maurice Sérullaz, Eugène Delacroix, Paris, 1989, p. 456.

« Delacroix, Le voyage au Maroc », exhibition catalog, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 1994, repr. p.101

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