Oil on canvas, H. 0.50; W. 0.61 m.
This remarkable painting, which left Delacroix’s Place de Fürstenberg apartment when its contents were dispersed, has now returned to the artist’s studio; it dates back to 1824-1825, when he painted the Massacres of Chios and The Death of Sardanapalus. These unrelated sketches, painted with swift and energetic brushstrokes, depict two gospel-book covers, a Greek or Turkish jacket, and figures from a Goya print.
Delacroix discovered the Spanish master’s work at an early age at the home of his childhood friends Louis and Félix Guillemardet, where he could admire Goya’s large portrait of their father (which is now in the Louvre). Delacroix became a constant collector of prints by Goya, which were his inspiration for many drawings. The figures in this painting are based on the couple in plate 27 of Los Caprichos: “¿Quién más rendido?” (Which of Them Is More Overcome?).
This painted sketch—unusually large for an exercise of this sort—was forgotten but not destroyed, and followed the artist to his various places of residence until his death. It clearly held a fascination for a number of Delacroix enthusiasts: it was first acquired by the famous art critic Philippe Burty, executor of the artist’s will; after Burty’s death, it was auctioned in 1891 to Paul Cheramy, one of the keenest Delacroix collectors; and in 1908, it entered the collection of Madame Langweil, subsequently remaining with her descendants. This touching painting, with its roughly grooved impasto, now illuminates Delacroix’s studio, its modernity bearing vibrant witness to the secret of this laboratory of colors.