Musée National Eugène Delacroix
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Mirabeau Confronts the Marquis de Dreux-Brézé

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)

@ RMN / F. Raux

Eugène Delacroix
(1798-1863)

RF 1953-41
1830
Oil on canvas
Purchased by the State for the Society of Friends of Eugène Delacroix, 1953.
H. 0,680 m; L. 0,820 m
On the back, wax seal of Delacroix’s posthumous sale

Delacroix sketched the preparatory drawing for the painting submitted to the 1830 competition with an astonishing energy and economy of line. The competition had been organized by the government for the decoration of the new chambers in the Chambre des Députés (Palais Bourbon).

The final composition is in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen.

 

This is a sketch, with a few variations, for the canvas painted by Delacroix in 1831 that is now in Copenhagen (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek). To the right, the Marquis de Dreux-Brézé has just notified the representatives of the Third Estate of the dispersion order given by King Louis XVI, whose empty throne covered with a canopy is visible. Mirabeau, in the center, is surrounded and followed by the deputies; he indicates with a gesture his refusal to obey.

The competition of 1830

Borrowed from the history of the 1789 Revolution, this theme was the subject of the competition organized soon after the 1830 Revolution for the decoration of the Chambers in the Palais Bourbon (now the Assemblée Nationale). Two other subjects had been proposed: Louis-Philippe Swearing to Uphold the Constitutional Charter on 9 August 1830, and Boissy d’Anglas at the Convention, Saluting the Head od Deputé Féraud.

Delacroix entered a work for the Mirabeau and the Boissy d’Anglas subjects, but neither of his canvases was selected, although his sketches had been well received (the painting of Boissy d’Anglas is in the Bordeaux Musée des Beaux-Arts; the Musée Delacroix has a copy of the etching made by Félix Bracquemond in 1881). The artist’s interpretation no doubt did not correspond to the political purposes of the project as defined by Guizot, then Minister of the Interior.

From the sketch to the completed work

According to the artist’s own admission, it was less important to reproduce the historical truth than to highlight a confrontation between the two men so as to amplify the emotional power radiating from the compact group of deputies. On 4 October 1854, Delacroix noted in his Journal that "this emotion, which stirs an entire gathering as it would stir a single man, must absolutely be expressed." The painter portrayed this particularly clearly in this sketch, in which the fluid brushstrokes underscore the tension of the bodies expressing the shared will of the assembly opposing that of the king.

The final work was not selected by the jury: it’s true that when he completed it, the painter somewhat dampened his creative impulse, as he explained in his Letter on Competitions (published in L’Artiste, marsh 1831): "The artist isolated in his studio, initially inspired for a work, is filled with a sincere faith which alone produces masterpieces; if perchance, he raises his eyes beyond the trestles on which he will paint and onto the judges, immediately, his impulse is stopped... he changes, he spoils it, he loses his steam; he wants to civilize and polish his work so as not to displease."

Documentation

Lee Johnson, The paintings of Eugène Delacroix, a Critical Catalogue, Volume I, Oxford, 1981, n° 145, p. 151, repr. 128.

Marie-Claude Chaudonneret, "Le concours de 1830 pour la Chambre des Députés : deux esquisses d’A. E. Fragonard au Louvre", in Revue du Louvre, 2-1987, pp. 128-135.

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