Musée National Eugène Delacroix
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Studies for Greece on the ruins of Missolonghi and Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)

© RMN / H. Lewandowski

Eugène Delacroix
(1798-1863)

MD 1982-1
Graphite, pen and brown ink,
brown ink-wash
Purchased, 1982
H. 0,260 m ; L. 0,390 m
Annotated by Delacroix’s hand, towards the center : cloud that hides the end of the sea, the sunbeams show through its obscurity

The most detailed part of this sheet presents a study for the female figure in Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1826, Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Oddly enough, this depiction of the sufferings of the Greek people oppressed by the Turks was Delacroix’s inspiration for the allegorical figure in Liberty Leading the People (1831, Paris, Musée du Louvre) illustrated in other sketches also on this sheet of paper.

 

The heroes of Missolonghi

The left-hand section of this sheet, which was purchased in the studio sale of the painter Félix Buhot in 1982, presents a preliminary step for the painting Delacroix made in 1826 (Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts). It pays tribute to the heroic resistance of the 4,000 defenders of the city of Missolonghi, surrounded by 35,000 men supported by the Turkish fleet in 1825. So that they wouldn’t fall into the hands of their enemies, the last fighters blew themselves up with their wives and children.

Research and composition

Rather than creating a literal depiction of one of the bloodiest episodes in the Greek war of independence against the Turks, Delacroix opted for allegory. His first drawings show that he initially planned an almost square composition, centered on a female figure bent under the weight of pain. When he got the idea of an emblematic figure rising from the ruins, the axis of the scene shifted, and the final composition took on the form of a monumental banner. The other sketches around the main subject, on the other hand, refer to the painting exhibited at the 1831 Salon, Liberty Leading the People (Paris, Musée du Louvre), which was the unexpected result of the studies inspired by Delacroix’s philhellenic interests: the sheet includes a figure blowing a trumpet, another collapsed on a cannon, and a kneeling man with an outstretched arm.

Documentation

Hélène Toussaint, La Liberté guidant le peuple de Delacroix, catalogue exposition, Paris, musée du Louvre, 1982, n°3, repr.

Arlette Sérullaz et Vincent Pomarède, Eugène Delacroix, La Liberté guidant le peuple, Paris, 2004, p. 30.

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