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Work Study after the Monument to the Earl of Pembroke at Westminster Abbey

Department of The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Study after the Monument to the Earl of Pembroke at Westminster Abbey, Eugène Delacroix

© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Harry Bréjat

The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Author(s):
Hélène Doré

Delacroix’s 1825 sojourn in England

Swept up in the anglomania that gripped Europe during the 19th century, Delacroix was encouraged by his friend Thales Fielding to join him (1793–1837) in London, where he stayed for approximately six weeks, from June to August 1825, in the company of his friends Richard Bonington (1801–1828), Alexandre-Marie Colin (1798–1873), and Edouard Bertin (1797–1871), among others. There he delved into all aspects of British culture, going to the theater and keeping company with English painters. In early July, the friends went to Westminster, since Bonington had received authorization from the curator William Westall.


Study of pleurants

Marion Spencer was the first to recognize this sheet as studies after the pleurants sculpted on the funerary monument to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, at Westminster Abbey. The composition is organized around a central axis in the form of a pilaster, encircled by three pleurant figures. The watercolor technique, which Delacroix learned in contact with the English painters, is striking here by its transparency, and the capacity it offers for variations in tone. Delacroix thus delicately renders the plays of shadow and light that reflect off the sculpted relief.

Delacroix and Bonington: a friendship of painters

The studies of Bonington and Delacroix that have survived demonstrate a similar direction in their work. Sketching side by side, the two friends also copied the monuments to Lord Norris (died 1601), the Earl of Shrewsbury (died 1617), Sir Francis de Vere, and several effigies from the 15th century.  The Musée Delacroix also has another watercolor by the artist, produced in the same context: the detail of an architectural trilobe with a knight in armor at the center. In a letter from 1858 to Théophile Silvestre, Delacroix remembers his friend’s genius: “I have said nothing of Bonington’s talent: he is one of the most charming men ever to grace England. He had prodigious ease and his skill was complete from the moment he took up a pencil or brush: I remember when I was copying artists at the Museum, very young myself, I saw a tall boy of fifteen or sixteen who was doing watercolors after the great masters. It was him. His watercolors were already masterful and filled with an expressiveness that contrasted with his quiet appearance.”

Bibliography

Delacroix, Eugène, Eugène Delacroix, Further Correspondances 1817 - 1863, édition annotée par Lee Johnson, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 153 - 154
Joubin, André, Correspondance générale de Eugène Delacroix, Paris, 1936 – 1938, Vol. IV, pp. 57 - 62
Richard Parkes Bonington, “Du plaisir de peindre,” catalogue d’exposition, Paris, Petit-Palais, mars-mai 1992, pp. 128 - 129

Technical description

  • Eugène DELACROIX (Charenton-Saint-Maurice, 1798 - Paris, 1863)

    Study after the Monument to the Earl of Pembroke at Westminster Abbey

    c. 1825

  • Lead pencil and watercolor

    H: 11.5 cm x W: 17.6 cm

  • MD 2008-23

  • The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Practical information

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