Deux Marocains (Two Moroccans)

Date
1847

Medium
oil on canvas

Dimension
36 x 28 cm

Date
1847

Medium
oil on canvas

Dimension
36 x 28 cm

Deux Marocains (Two Moroccans) is a painting by Eugène Delacroix, the quintessential artist of French Romanticism and a passionate orientalist. It was acquired through Nicholas Hall by the Qatar Museums in Doha.
Signature and inscriptions

Signed, bottom right: Eug Delacroix

Provenance

The painter, Émile Meyer (1823-1893), by1885

A. Witcomb & Co, Buenos Aires, as Arabs on the Lookout

Doctor Francisco Llobet, by December 1925

Francisco Gowland-Llobet, 1973 – 2002

Tomas Gowland-Llobet, London, 2003 – 2019

Private collection, France

with Nicholas Hall, New York

Acquired from the above by the Qatar Museums, Doha

Exhibited

Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, Eugène Delacroix, au profit de la souscription destinée à élever à Paris un monument à sa mémoire, 6 March – 15 April 1885.

Literature

Théophile Silvestre, Histoire des Artistes Vivants, Delacroix, Paris, 1855, p. 82.

Alfred Robaut, L’œuvre Complèt d’Eugène Delacroix. Peintures, dessins, gravures, lithographies, Paris, 1885, p. 268, no. 1018, reproduced.

Jean Guiffrey, Le Voyage de Eugène Delacroix au Maroc, Paris, 1909, p. 160.

B. de Portalègre, ‘La collection Llobet,’ L’Amour de l’art, XI, no. 7, July 1930, p. 182.

Lee Johnson, The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: A Critical Catalogue. 1832 – 1863 (moveable pictures and private decorations), London, 1986, vol. III, p. 188, no 377; vol. IV, pl. 191, reproduced.

Maurice Arama, Le Maroc de Delacroix, Paris, 1987, no. 26, p. 211, reproduced.

“An Arab sits on the ground in a relaxed and effortless, yet dignified demeanor. A young man with his right hand raised speaks to him. Seen from the back his white tunic, red undergarment, and blue trousers energize the composition. A yellow strap holding the scimitar flickers over his shoulder. The two men are set against a landscape. On the left, stand a grove of trees. On the right is a village warmly lit by the sun. As is typical of Eugène Delacroix, this painting is rich with tonality and harmony.”
– Alfred Robaut, L’Oeuvre Complet de Eugène Delacroix, Paris, 1885, p. 272
Essay

Delacroix was already an established artist, with Salon successes, when, at the age of thirty, he was invited to join a diplomatic delegation to Morocco led by Charles de Mornay. De Mornay had been summoned by the king, Louis-Philippe, to appear before the Sultan of Morocco. The six-month journey, which included sojourns in Tangiers, Meknes, Oran, and Algiers, lasted from January to July 1832. Delacroix, who was not directly involved in the negotiations, took full advantage of his freedom, hungrily recording his impressions as drawings and sketches, often with painstaking precision and notes.

The North African voyage proved thrilling to Delacroix and heralded a new direction in his oeuvre. “The picturesque is here in abundance. At every step one sees ready-made pictures, which would bring fame and fortune to twenty generations of painters,” he wrote in a letter to Armand Bertin sent from Meknes on 2 April 1832. Between 1834 and 1859 he showed fourteen North African subjects at the Paris Salon, beginning with Women of Algiers.

The Two Moroccans has traditionally been dated to circa 1847. In this year, Delacroix was working on three noteworthy paintings; a second version of Women of Algiers, Arab Race, and Arab Comedians. The same year, he exhibited A Guard Horse at Meknes at the Salon, now in the Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal. Delacroix references the Two Moroccans on the back of a North African sketchbook at an unknown date after 1846, where he lists it without comment as “2 Moroccans, painting of 5, one standing from behind, white shirt.”

Further supporting this date, the rear contrapposto view and pose of the upright man in the present painting is nearly identical to the right-most figure in Women of Algiers (1834, 1847-49).[Noted by Asher Miller upon first-hand inspection of the painting, 4 November 2019] Additionally, the pose of the seated man, with one leg folded on the ground, the other facing upright with his elbow on his knee is a recurring posture, notably found in The Orange Merchant.

The pose of the standing figure in white reminds one of that of the black serving girl in the second version of the Women of Algiers, on which Delacroix was almost certainly working when this picture was painted. The hand gesture, the contrapposto of the figure, even the foot, half out of the slipper, all suggest that Delacroix had in mind, as he worked out this composition, his return to the Women of Algiers. However, there are differences. In the Women of Algiers, the serving girl seems to open the curtain on the harem scene. She is there as mediator between the audience and the subject, and though we cannot read her thoughts we do see her profile. In this picture, Delacroix achieves the remarkable effect of painting what is clearly a conversation, an animated interaction between two people, but with the face of the main protagonist completely hidden from view. The luxurious handling of the paint which boldly describes the standing man’s red and white robes, his gleaming dagger and the broadly-brushed stock of his rifle are all that we see. We feel that he is youthful and noble and there is a sense of a narrative, though unlike his interpretations of Lord Byron’s Don Juan or Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, there seems to be no specific reference, something supported by Delacroix’s own vague reference in his notebook. Nevertheless, this is a highly refined and finished, signed work which illustrates Delacroix’s enduring fascination with, and empathy for, what he would have seen as the romantic spirit of ‘oriental’ culture.

This extraordinarily well-preserved painting is unlined and supported by its original strainer. On its reverse is a stamp reading ‘HARO’, the mark of François-Étienne Haro, a painter and supplier of artists’ materials in Paris. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingrespatronized the shop from the late 18th century, and from about 1826 onwards, Delacroix bought his canvases and paints there. In the mid-1840s, Etienne-François Haro, the son of François-Étienne, acted frequently as an intermediary for Delacroix and Ingres and their clients. One such commission was for a second version (1862, Musée du Louvre, Paris) of Delacroix’s Medea (1838, Musée Beaux-Arts, Lille) ordered by Emile-Jacob Péreire from Delacroix through Haro.

By December 1925, Two Moroccans entered the collection of the Argentinian Doctor Francisco Llobet. Another work in his collection, now in the National Gallery, Washington, D.C., was Théodore Géricault’s Mounted Trumpeters of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. Delacroix first met and befriended Géricault at Pierre Narcisse Guérin’s studio, prompting a long-standing symbiotic relationship of two of France’s leading Romantic painters.

Eugène Delacroix augured something radically new in his Moroccan canvases. Not only his exotic subject matter, but also his vibrant palette and expressive brushwork, prioritized a freshness and spontaneity over academic notions of finish. Baudelaire writes of his work, “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible.”❖

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