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The Abduction of Rebecca

Eugène Delacroix (French, Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798–1863 Paris)

Date:
1846
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
39 1/2 x 32 1/4 in. (100.3 x 81.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1903
Accession Number:
03.30
  • Gallery Label

    Throughout his career, Delacroix was inspired by the novels of Sir Walter Scott, a favorite author of the French Romantics. This painting depicts a scene from Ivanhoe: the Jewish heroine Rebecca, who had been confined in the castle of Front de Boeuf (seen in flames), is carried off by two Saracen slaves commanded by the covetous Christian knight Bois-Guilbert. The contorted, interlocking poses and compacted space, which shifts abruptly from the elevated foregound to the fortress behind, create a sense of intense drama. Apart from the still life at lower left, the only element of calm is Rebecca herself.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This is one of Delacroix’s greatest paintings, and a key monument in the history of Romanticism despite having been painted two decades after the movement’s first flowering. Its subject is derived from Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), whose swashbuckling novels were a favorite of the French Romantics. Ivanhoe was published in 1791, and appeared in French translation in 1820. Delacroix first essayed a subject drawn from Scott in 1823, with the cabinet-sized Rebecca and the Wounded Ivanhoe (Jayne Wrightsman collection, New York; see Lee Johnson, The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix, A Critical Catalogue: Fourth Supplement and Reprint of Third Supplement, Oxford, 2002, p. 323, no. 101); it depicts the scene just before the one shown in the present work.

    This picture was painted in 1846 and exhibited at the Salon in the same year under the title Rebecca Abducted at the Order of the Templar Bois-Guilbert during the Sack of the Castle of Front-de-Boeuf. Delacroix added this description in the Salon catalogue: "She is already in the hands of the two African slaves who have been instructed to take her far away from the scene of battle" (for translation see Vincent Pomarède in Delacroix: The Late Work, exh. cat., Philadelphia, 1996, p. 226). The Jewish heroine Rebecca, who had been confined to the castle of Front de Boeuf, seen in flames, is shown being carried off by two Saracen slaves commanded by the covetous Christian knight Bois-Guilbert. The disparate elements that converge in this scene as conceived by Scott, from the unlikely combination of ethnic types to the dichotomy between male and female figures in active and passive roles, present the sort of pictorial challenge to which Delacroix was invariably attracted. Here he met it with a composition defined by great energy and tension. The figures who constitute the main group interlock in a fashion that is difficult to apprehend at a glance, particularly as their complex and fluid movements compete for the viewer’s attention; they are, as it were, suspended in a very complicated animation. And yet, their volume and firm silhouette are a solid counterpoint to the vaporous form of the fortress behind them. Delacroix improvised on the canvas: no underdrawing is evident, and the brushwork is constructive and varied.

    Paradoxically, Delacroix here reveals an underlying classical bent in his approach to composition, in that he successfully manages to impose a unity of action, place, and time. This aspect of the picture was anticipated in earlier art by Leonardo da Vinci’s Battle of Anghiari, by Peter Paul Rubens’s lion hunts, and, in his own time, Antoine-Louis Barye’s bronze animal hunts. Scholars have been cautious about identifying specific visual sources for this work, however, and only a small number of studies exist to shed light on its evolution. These include a drawing executed in highly agitated pencil strokes showing all the main elements more or less in place (Louvre RF 3704), another for Rebecca and the two Saracens (Louvre RF 3705); as well as at least two others (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, inv. Pluchart 1261; and possibly Louvre RF 9530).

    Salon critics often responded negatively to the picture, their opinions reflecting the enduring divide between the paradigms of Neoclassical order and Romantic freedom of expression. For the conservative Étienne Délécluze, a partisan of Delacroix’s rival Ingres, "all the fundamental resources of art, such as drawing, modeling, and even the colors, seem to be systematically sacrificed to the intimate and violent expression of feelings and passions. Also, to give to that expression all the intensity the imagination can comprehend, one sees that the painter has been forced to extend, reduce, and twist the figures’ limbs to make them comply with his imagination. This [. . .] manner of investing art with spiritualism, which entails breaking the laws of physics under the pretext of endowing the entire scope of the imagination with the forcefulness of the passions and the great commotions of the soul, [and] this contempt of form, is pushed beyond all limits in the Rebecca." By contrast Charles Baudelaire, who was open to more diverse approaches to painting, wrote: "The admirable thing about The Abduction of Rebecca is the perfect ordering of its colors, which are intense, close-packed, serried and logical; the result of this is a thrilling effect. With almost all painters who are not colorists, you will always be noticing vacuums, that is to say great holes, produced by tones which are below the level of the rest, so to speak. Delacroix’s painting is like nature; it has a horror of a vacuum" (Jonathan Mayne transl., p. 64).

    In 1858 Delacroix completed another version of this subject of basically the same size, but with an entirely different composition (Louvre RF 1392), which he showed at the Salon of 1859, his last (see Pomarède, op. cit.).

    [2014]

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Eug. Delacroix / 1846

  • Provenance

    Collot, Paris (by 1846–52; his sale, Hôtel des Ventes Mobilières, Paris, May 28, 1852, no. 11, for Fr 2,900); M. T. . ., Brussels (until 1856; his sale, Hôtel des commissaires-priseurs, Paris, February 9, 1856, no. 12, for Fr 2,200, to Bouruet-Aubertot); Bouruet-Aubertot, Paris (1856–at least 1864); Edwards, Paris (until 1870; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 7, 1870, no. 7, for Fr 27,000 to Sabatier); Raymond Sabatier, Paris (1870–83; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 30, 1883, no. 12, ill. [Ramus etching], for Fr 51,000, to Petit for Goldschmidt); ?E. Secrétan; Salomon Goldschmidt, Paris (1883–88; his estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 17, 1888, no. 34, ill. [Ramus etching], for Fr 29,100, to Knoedler for Lyall); David C. Lyall, Brooklyn (1888–d. 1892; his estate sale, American Art Association, New York, February 10, 1903, no. 96, for $11,100 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1903; sold half-share to Knoedler]; [Durand-Ruel and Knoedler, New York, 1903; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    Paris. Salon. March 16–?, 1846, no. 502 (as "Rébecca enlevée par les ordres du templier Boisguilbert, au milieu du sac du château de Frontdeboeuf").

    Paris. Galerie Bonne-Nouvelle. "Association des artistes: Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture et architecture exposés à la Galerie Bonne-Nouvelle, au profit de la caisse des secours et pensions de l'association, troisième année," January 1848, suppl. no. 164 [see Johnson 1986].

    Paris. 26, Boulevard des Italiens. "Expositon des œuvres d'Eugène Delacroix," 1864, no. 129 (as "Rébecca enlevée par les ordres de templier Boisguilbert," lent by M. Bourruet, possibly this work [or J453]).

    Paris. Palais de la Présidence du Corps Législatif. "Ouvrages de peinture exposés au profit de la colonisation de l'Algérie par les Alsaciens-Lorrains," April 23, 1874, suppl. no. 778 [see Johnson 1986].

    New York. American Art Galleries. "Works of Antoine-Louis Barye Exhibited at the American Art Galleries under the Auspices of the Barye Monument Association, also of Paintings by J. F. Millet and Others, his Contemporaries and Friends," November 15, 1889–January 15, 1890, no. 612 (as "L'enlevement de Rebecca," lent by D. C. Lyall, Esq.).

    Art Institute of Chicago. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Prints by Eugene Delacroix 1798–1863," March 20–April 20, 1930, no. 29.

    Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Centenaire du romantisme: Exposition E. Delacroix," June–September 1930, no. 119.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Taste of Today in Masterpieces of Painting before 1900," July 10–October 2, 1932, no catalogue.

    Kansas City, Mo. William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art. "One Hundred Years: French Painting, 1820–1920," March 31–April 28, 1935, no. 22.

    Rochester, N.Y. Rochester Memorial Art Gallery. "The Precursors of Modern Art," October 1938, no. 11.

    Cambridge, Mass. William Hayes Fogg Art Museum. "Between the Empires: Géricault, Delacroix, Chassériau, Painters of the Romantic Movement," April 30–June 1, 1946, unnumbered cat.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 143.

    Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Centenaire d'Eugène Delacroix 1798–1863," May–September 1963, no. 355 [memorial ed., no. 352].

    Paris. Petit Palais. "Baudelaire," November 23, 1968–March 17, 1969, no. 189.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 364.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, not in catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863): Paintings, Drawings, and Prints from North American Collections," April 10–June 16, 1991, no. 5.

  • References

    J. J. Arnoux. L'epoque (March 16, 1846) [see Ref. Tourneux 1886].

    Charles Baudelaire. Salon de 1846 (1846) [reprinted in Ref. Kelley 1975, p. 139], describes this picture as "une parfaite ordonnance de tons," and, also while referring to this work, makes his famous statement that "la peinture de Delacroix est comme la nature, elle a horreur du vide"
    .

    Champfleury. "Salon de 1846." Le corsaire Satan (March 24, 1846) [reprinted in J. Troubat, ed., "Oeuvres Posthumes de Champfleury: Salons 1846–51", 1894, pp. 12–18].

    Eugène Delacroix. Letter to Thoré. March 16, 1846 [published in Ref. Joubin 1936, p. 265], mentions that he had great difficulty in getting the owner of this picture (whom he does not mention by name) to agree to loan it to the 1846 Salon.

    [Étienne-Jean] Delécluze. "Salon de 1846 (2e article)." Journal des débats politiques et littéraires (March 31, 1846), p. 1.

    A. Dil . . . "Salon de 1846." La patrie (April 8, 1846) [see Ref. Johnson 1986].

    A[lbert]. de la Fizelière. "Salon de 1846." Le commerce (March 19, 1846) [see Ref. Johnson 1986].

    Théophile Gautier. "Salon de 1846 (Deuxième article)." La Presse (April 1, 1846), p. 1.

    I. Gosse in Diogène au Salon (1846), pp. 53–56 [see Ref. Tourneux 1886].

    A. Guillot. "Salon de 1846." La révue indépendante, 2nd série II, (May 10, 1846), pp. 307–8 [see Ref. Johnson 1986].

    Prosper Haussard in Le national (April 28, 1846) [see Ref. Tourneux 1886].

    Charles Lenormant in "Salon de 1846." Le correspondant, recueil périodique 14 (1846), pp. 382–83.

    "Beaux-arts: Salon de 1846." L'illustration, journal universel 7 (May 30, 1846), p. 201, ill. (wood engraving).

    Paul Mantz. "Le Salon: Les coloristes." L'Artiste, IVe série, 6 (1846), p. 88–89.

    Alfred de Menciaux. "Salon de 1846." Le Siècle (May 9, 1846), p. 1, considers it an unfinished sketch.

    Gustave Planche. "Le Salon de 1846. La Peinture." Revue des deux mondes 14 (April 15, 1846), pp. 288–89.

    [Étienne-Joseph-] T[héophile]. Thoré. "Le Salon de 1846." Le Constitutionnel (March 17, 1846), p. 2.

    Ferdinand Sartorius. "Gravure du numéro." L'Artiste, 4e sér., 10 (October 3, 1847), p. 224, ill. opp. p. 224 (Hédouin etching).

    L[ouis]. Clément de Ris. "Troisième exposition de l'association des artistes." L'Artiste, 4e sér., 11 (January 30, 1848), p. 195.

    Théophile Silvestre. Delacroix. Paris, 1855, pp. 83–84.

    Amédée Cantaloube. Eugène Delacroix. Paris, 1864, p. 99.

    H. de la Madelène. Eugène Delacroix à l'exposition du Boulevard des Italiens. Paris, 1864, ill. opp. p. 14 [see Ref. Johnson 1986].

    [Achille Piron]. Eugène Delacroix: sa vie et ses oeuvres. Paris, 1865, p. 108.

    Adolphe Moreau. E. Delacroix et son œuvre. Paris, 1873, pp. 181, 245, no. 502, gives the provenance of the picture, and describes the various states of the etching by Hédouin.

    Alfred Robaut. L'œuvre complet de Eugène Delacroix. Paris, 1885, p. 255, no. 974, ill. (engraving).

    Maurice Tourneux. Eugène Delacroix devant ses contemporains. Paris, 1886, pp. 80–83, 151, lists it in the 1846 Salon, citing numerous exhibition reviews; lists it in the 1883 Sabatier sale.

    Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Note Book." Art Amateur 20 (December 1888), p. 2, states that David C. Lyall has just purchased this picture from the Goldschmidt sale in Paris; faults both the drawing and the color of the composition.

    Alfred Trumble. "Who Own the Masterpieces." The Collector no. 7 (February 1, 1890), p. 50.

    Weston Coyney. "The Lyall Collection." The Collector 3 (October 15, 1892), pp. 309–10.

    "Big Prices at Lyall Sale." New York Times (February 11, 1903), p. 2.

    "$250,745 for Lyall Pictures." New York Sun (February 11, 1903), p. ?, states that when this picture came up at the previous day's sale, a letter from John LaFarge was read "praising the painting very highly and expressing the hope that an American museum might become the possessor of so fine an example of the master".

    Frank Fowler. "The Field of Art: Modern Foreign Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum, Some Examples of the French School." Scribner's Magazine 44 (September 1908), p. 383.

    Étienne Moreau-Nélaton. Delacroix raconté par lui-même. Paris, 1916, vol. 2, pp. 49–50, fig. 263.

    B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Nineteenth-Century French Painting." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 13 (August 1918), p. 177, ill. p. 175.

    Julius Meier-Graefe. Eugène Delacroix: Beiträge zu einer Analyse. Munich, 1922, pp. 55–56, ill. p. 173, as in the Secrétan collection, Paris.

    Raymond Escholier. Delacroix: Peintre, graveur, écrivain. 2, Paris, 1927, p. 307.

    Raymond Escholier. Delacroix: Peintre, Graveur, Écrivain. 3, Paris, 1929, p. 173, ill. p. 121.

    Louis Hourticq. Delacroix: L'œuvre du maître. Paris, 1930, ill. p. 117.

    André Joubin. Correspondance générale d'Eugène Delacroix. 2, Paris, 1936, p. 265 n. 1, notes that Thoré annotated Delacroix's letter [Ref. 1846], identifying the work as this one.

    George Heard Hamilton. "Delacroix, Byron and the English Illustrators." Gazette des beaux-arts 36 (October–December 1949), pp. 274–75, fig. 18.

    Ulrich Christoffel. Eugène Delacroix. Munich, 1951, p. 65, mentions two other painted versions of this theme, which he dates 1856 and 1859, and states that Mannheim owns a sketch of the same subject.

    Eugène Delacroix. The Journal of Eugène Delacroix. London, 1951, p. 487, pl. 39.

    Walter Friedlaender. David to Delacroix. New York, 1952, p. 127, fig. 80.

    "Notes on the Cover." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 11 (February 1953), p. 152, ill. on cover (color detail).

    Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), p. 6, ill. p. 47.

    A. Hyatt Mayor. "The Gifts that Made the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (November 1957), p. 86.

    Raymond Escholier. Delacroix. abridged ed. Paris, 1963, p. 131.

    René Huyghe. Delacroix. New York, 1963, pp. 303, 475, 536, colorpl. LI.

    Philippe Jullian. Delacroix. Paris, 1963, p. 135.

    Robert Nebinger Beetem. "Delacroix's Mural Paintings, 1833–1847." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1964, pp. 69, 118–19 n. 149, claims that the elements of Delacroix's later style, described by Friedlaender [see Ref. 1952] in reference to the 1858 version of this subject (J326; Paris, Musée du Louvre), are already apparent in this work.

    Kurt Badt. Eugène Delacroix: Werke und Ideale. Cologne, 1965, fig. 7.

    Adrien Chappuis. "Cézanne dessinateur: copies et illustrations." Gazette des beaux-arts 66 (November 1965), pp. 300–301, fig. 22, reproduces (fig. 21) the sheet of studies made by Cézanne after the head, arm, and hand of the horseman carrying off Rebecca, dating it 1864–68.

    Corrado Maltese. Delacroix. Milan, 1965, pp. 63, 125, 168, no. 69, fig. 69.

    Lee Johnson. "Eugène Delacroix et les Salons." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 16, nos. 4 and 5 (1966), p. 224, no. 2409.

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX Century." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2, New York, 1966, pp. 24–27, ill.

    Frank Anderson Trapp. The Attainment of Delacroix. Baltimore, [1970], pp. 174–75, 177, 191, 276, fig. 99, relates this composition to the later version now in the Louvre, to an earlier picture by Léon Cogniet of the same subject (1828; Wallace Collection, London), and to other works.

    Maurice Sérullaz. Eugène Delacroix. New York, [1971], p. 42.

    Luigina Rossi Bortolatto. L'opera pittorica completa di Delacroix. Milan, 1972, pp. 112, 114, no. 452, ill.

    Adrien Chappuis. The Drawings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné. Greenwich, Conn., 1973, vol. 1, p. 75, fig. 10 (detail), mentions this picture under no. 117 (whereabouts unknown), a page of studies by Cézanne which includes details from this picture, drawn from a reproduction, and which Chappuis dates 1864–67 [see also Ref. Chappuis 1965].

    Martin Kemp. "Scott and Delacroix, with some Assistance from Hugo and Bonington." Scott Bicentenary Essays. Edinburgh, 1973, p. 226 n. 51.

    Carl R. Baldwin The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Impressionist Epoch. [New York], 1974, p. 10.

    David Kelley. Baudelaire: Salon de 1846. Oxford, 1975, pp. 29, 43, 95, 101, 139, 197–98, pl. 1, comments on criticism of this picture by Baudelaire, Gautier, and Champfleury [see Refs. 1846].

    David A. Flanary. Champfleury: The Realist Writer as Art Critic. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1978, pp. 48, 51–52.

    René Jullian. "Delacroix et le paysage." L'Oeil nos. 282–83 (January–February 1979), colorpl. 2.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 397, fig. 728 (color), mentions that this type of composition shows a special debt to Rubens.

    Lee Johnson. The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: A Critical Catalogue. 1, Oxford, 1981, p. xxii.

    Maurice Sérullaz. Delacroix. Paris, 1981, pp. 108, 189, no. 272, ill. (color and black and white).

    Donald A. Rosenthal. Orientalism: The Near East in French Painting 1800–1880. Exh. cat., Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. Rochester, N.Y., 1982, p. 65, notes that the massive walls of Meknes in Morocco influenced Delacroix's conception for the fortress depicted in this painting.

    John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. London, 1984, p. 231.

    Lee Johnson. The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: A Critical Catalogue. 4, Oxford, 1986, pl. 102.

    Lee Johnson. The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: A Critical Catalogue. 3, Oxford, 1986, pp. xxii, 111–12, 145, 346, 354, no. 284.

    Carol Ockman. "'Two Large Eyebrows à l'orientale': Ethnic Stereotyping in Ingres's 'Baronne de Rothschild'." Art History 14 (December 1991), pp. 528, 530, pl. 28.

    William M. Griswold in Masterworks from the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1992, p. 275, ill., discusses it in connection with a study for the composition in the Lille museum.

    Peter Kropmanns. "Cézanne, Delacroix et Hercule: Réflexions sur 'L'enlèvement', 1867, œuvre de jeunesse de Paul Cézanne." Revue de l'art 100 (2nd trimester 1993), p. 77, fig. 6.

    Stéphane Guégan. Delacroix et les orientales. Paris, 1994, pp. 30, 122, ill. p. 123 (color).

    Michele Hannoosh. Painting and the 'Journal' of Eugène Delacroix. Princeton, 1995, p. 187, fig. 54.

    Barthélémy Jobert. Delacroix. Paris, 1997, p. 274, colorpl. 232.

    Peter Rautmann. Delacroix. Paris, 1997, pp. 220, 342.

    Peter Brooks. History Painting and Narrative Delacroix's 'Moments'. Oxford, 1998, p. 10, fig. 5.

    Arlette Sérullaz and Vincent Pomarède in Delacroix: la naissance d'un nouveau romantisme. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen. Paris, 1998, p. 80.

    Thomas Lederballe in "Delacroix's Enthusiasm: Abduction as a Genre in his Painting." Delacroix: The Music of Painting. Exh. cat., Ordrupgaard. Copenhagen, 2000, pp. 103, 127, fig. 59 (color).

    Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 42, 246–47, no. 39, ill. (color and black and white).

    Colta Ives in Une passion pour Delacroix: La collection Karen B. Cohen. Exh. cat., Musée National Eugène Delacroix. Paris, 2009, pp. 29–30, 33, 161, fig. 7 (color).

    Barthélémy Jobert in Une passion pour Delacroix: La collection Karen B. Cohen. Exh. cat., Musée National Eugène Delacroix. Paris, 2009, pp. 20, 22, 25, 27 n. 27.

    Sébastien Allard in Delacroix (1798–1863): De l'idée à l'expression. Exh. cat., CaixaForum Madrid. [Madrid], 2011, p. 53, fig. 5 (color).



  • Notes

    Four leaves of drawings of this subject were included in the 1864 Delacroix sale (as no. 354).

    There are two etchings made after this work: one by Edmond Hédouin, dated 1846, and one by Ramus, of 1883 [see Ref. Johnson 1986]. There is also an anonymous wood engraving published in the journal "L'illustration" in 1846 [see Ref. 1846]. In the late 1860s Cézanne did a page of studies after the head and arm of the horseman carrying off Rebecca [see Ref. Chappuis 1965].

  • See also
438814

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