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Negro in a Turban

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)

© RMN / F. Raux / R-G. Ojéda

Eugène Delacroix
(1798-1863)

RF 32 268
Pastel on buff paper
Purchased by State from the Société des Amis de Delacroix, 1934

Delacroix used pastel throughout his life, starting in the 1820s. He was probably introduced to this technique by his friend, Baron Louis-Auguste Schwiter (1805-1889) or by Jules-Robert Auguste (1789-1850).

This pastel with warm colors was probably made while Delacroix was working on Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1826, Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts). It may have been used for the black soldier who appears in the background to the right of the painting.

 

Like Géricault, who frequently depicted black figures in 1817 and 1818, Delacroix worked for a time with a black model, though his studies did not have the same polemic or heroic connotations. Here, he dressed the figure in a jacket than may have come from the collection of clothes that Auguste had brought back from his trips to the Middle East and who willingly lent them to the artist who worked in his studio. The Musée Delacroix has a fairly similar jacket.

The black soldier in the background

This study may have been used for the black soldier who appears in the background, to the right, in Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1826 - Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts). A certain number of Egyptians had joined the 35,000 Turkish soldiers who were attacking the 4,000 heroic defenders of the city during the siege of Missolonghi in 1825. Delacroix transformed his model into a Nubian soldier, despite the ethnic differences: another study, sketched on the page of a notebook now in the Musée du Louvre, shows him full length. (RF 23 355, f°37 recto).

Perfectly mastered technique

This pastel illustrates Delacroix’s expert technique. The figure’s face, standing out against a white background through rapid hatching, contrasts with the unfinished aspect of the clothing, sketched on buff paper. The modeling on the face, whose skin texture is admirable suggested through a delicate blend of pastel chalks, is highlighted with a few touches of white - as luminous as the light pastels on the twist of the orange ribbon.

Documentation

Maurice Sérullaz et collaborateurs, Inventaire général des dessins. Ecole française. Eugène Delacroix, Paris, 1984, n° 107, repr.

Lee Johnson, Delacroix Pastels, Londres, 1995, p.74, repr.

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