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Work Study for Jane Grey: a man and two women in Renaissance dress

Department of Prints and Drawings: 19th century

Etude pour 'L'Exécution de Lady Jane Grey'

Prints and Drawings
19th century

Goarin Véronique

Paul Delaroche, history and portrait painter, is placed firmly in the romantic tradition. He distinguished himself in the historical drama genre, depicting scenes of violence such as the large canvas in the National Gallery of London: The Execution of Lady Jane Grey - considered a masterpiece from the moment of its exhibition in the Salon of 1834. The heiress to Edward VI was only 17 when she was decapitated in 1554 in the Tower of London by order of Mary Tudor, who had designs on the throne.

Reserved romanticism

Paul Delaroche, student of Watelet and later Gros, was noticed as of 1822 by Géricault, who encouraged and counseled him. His fame rapidly grew with his historic subjects, a blend of drama and reserve; and later even more so under the reign of Louis-Philippe, when he became a reputed portaitist. His work is characterized by a careful balance between emotional displays and a reserved and academic execution. Delaroche's artistic output is of considerable importance, and the Louvre conserves in all nearly 800 drawings in connection with his paintings, thanks to donations by the artist's descendants.

Aestheticism and sensitivity

In 1832 Delaroche settled on a final composition for The Execution of Lady Jane Grey in a watercolor found today at the University of Manchester (Whitworth Art Gallery). The Louvre drawing, a study of three figures from the tragic scene, was thus created at the same period. The figure on the left is that of the executioner, although he appears younger and less intimidating here than in the painting: he seems moved and touched by the fragility of his victim. The two women are Jane Grey's attendants. The position of the woman on the left would eventually be altered, but she already displays the despair present in the final version. The postures of the figures are calculated to intensify the tragic nature of the theme, while the faces express deep feelings discreetly suppressed. Through profound and concentrated observation, Delaroche depicts the overwhelmed witnesses, making a sensitive analysis of each with a careful aestheticism free from violence.

The method

This drawing perfectly illustrates the method employed by Delaroche in the preparation of his compositions. Once its respective placement was decided, each figure was then carefully studied in separate drawings. The drawing is clear, the line precise, with scrupulous attention devoted to the smallest detail. The clothing is faithful to 16-century documents, revealing a taste for research and accuracy in the service of historic credibility. The placing of the executioner on a grid indicates that the figure appears here in his definitive form, ready to be transposed by a process of enlargement onto the canvas, respecting the proportions that have been fixed in the drawing.


Chotard Loïc, Alfred de Vigny et les arts, cat. exp. musée de la Vie romantique, hôtel Scheffer-Renan, 22 novembre 1997-1er mars 1998, Éditions Paris musées, 1997, n 77.Gould Cecil Hilton Monk, Delaroche and Gautier, Gautier's views on the "Execution of Lady Jane Grey" and on other compositions by Delaroche, cat. exp. National Gallery, Londres, 1975.Prat Louis-Antoine, in Arte de las Academias, Francia y México, siglos XVII-XIX, cat. exp. Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, octobre 1999-janvier 2000, Mexico, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, 1999, pp. 231-233.Sérullaz Arlette, Julia Isabelle, "Hommage à Paul Delaroche (1797-1856)", cat. exp. musée Ernest Hébert, juin-septembre 1984, in Le Petit Journal des grandes expositions, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1984, n 36.

Technical description

  • Paul DELAROCHE (Paris, 1797-Paris, 1856)

    Study for Jane Grey: a man and two women in Renaissance dress

    c. 1832

  • Black lead and red chalk, partially grid marked in black lead

    H. 23 cm; W. 20 cm

  • Horace-Paul Delaroche-Vernet bequest, 1887

    RF 1727

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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Additional information about the work

Top center, in black lead: Monstrelet...