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Work Mameluke Chief on Horseback Signaling for Help

Department of The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Mameluke Chief on Horseback Signaling for Help, Antoine-Jean, baron Gros

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Harry Bréjat

The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Author(s):
Catherine Adam

A rare print

There are only two known lithographs by Baron Gros, one entitled Arab in the Desert, portraying a chief who has milked his mare and is giving the milk to a young Ethiopian, and the one shown here of an Arab chief waving a scarf to signal for help. They were both made in 1817, printed off the presses of Comte Charles-Philibert de Lasteyrie (1759–1849).


An exotic subject from the past

Napoleon Bonaparte was fascinated by the bravery of the Mameluke warriors, the elite troops formed to serve the caliphs. During his Egyptian campaign, he decided by the Decree of July 13, 1804 to attach a company of Mamelukes to the cavalry regiment of the Chasseurs à Cheval de la Garde Impériale. The warriors then took part in the other campaigns of the Empire. Their strange, luxurious uniforms, elegant horses and rich trappings filled the contemporaries with awe, and a great many artists appropriated this exotic subject that fulfilled their quest for new horizons. With the fall of the Empire, the last Mamelukes were massacred by the ultra-royalists during the White Terror in Marseille on the night of February 25, 1815.
Trying his hand at this new technique, Gros returned to a subject of his glorious period under the Empire.


Delacroix, an admirer of Gros

 

Delacroix had a print of both of the Gros lithographs: they were listed under no. 831 in the catalogue of his posthumous studio sale. Achille Piron, his appointed heir and childhood friend, wrote in his monograph on the painter how, at the end of his career, Delacroix remembered the complimentary way in which Gros had spoken to him of The Barque of Dante, also known as Dante and Virgil in Hell (Paris, Musée du Louvre), the first painting he exhibited at the Salon.
In a distinguished tribute by the theorist and painter, Gros is one of the rare artists about whom Delacroix wrote an article that was published in the Revue des Deux Mondes on September 1, 1848.

Bibliography

Sébastien Allard, Marie-Claude Chaudonneret, Le Suicide de Gros. Les peintres de l’Empire et la génération romantique, Paris, Gourcuff Gradenigo, 2010; Dominique de Font-Réaulx (dir.), Eugène Delacroix, écrivain, témoin de son temps-Ecrits choisis, Paris, Flammarion, 2014

Technical description

  • Antoine-Jean, baron GROS (Paris, 1771 – Meudon, 1835)

    Mameluke Chief on Horseback Signaling for Help

    1817

  • Lithograph

  • Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée Eugène Delacroix, 2007

    MD 2007-7

  • The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Practical information

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