The subject of this portrait is the nephew of Gericault’s friend the painter Pierre-Joseph Dedreux-Dorcy. This canvas is one of a small group of drawings and paintings (in various collections) that depict the eight- or nine-year-old Alfred and his younger sister, Elisabeth, with remarkable self-possession and grace for their age. Alfred became a painter and, like Gericault, was enamored of horses. Eugène Delacroix, who had studied with Gericault, later owned this painting.
Infrared reflectography shows a different composition beneath the portrait, and with the canvas rotated 90 degrees to the right. The infrared reflectogram (see Additional Images, fig. 1) shows a turbaned black groom leading a saddled, bridled horse in a desert landscape with, at left, a pyramid and a palm tree and, at right, a second pyramid.
[Charlotte Hale 2016]
Eugène Delacroix, Paris (until d. 1863; acquired either at Gericault's posthumous sale or from the sitter's uncle Dedreux-Dorcy; Delacroix's posthumous inventory, August 22–September 29, 1863, no. 228, as "1 tableau représentant un jeune garçon attribué à Géricault, 20 F"; his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 17–19, 1864, no. 225, as "Portrait d'un jeune garçon assis dans la campagne," for Fr 370, to Dejean); baron Dejean, ?Paris (from 1864); Richard Goetz, Paris (until 1922; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 23–24, 1922, no. 142, as "Le roi de Rome," to the duke of Trévise); Édouard Napoléon César Edmond Mortier, 5th duke of Trévise, Melun, and Paris (1922–38; sale, Galerie Jean Charpentier, Paris, May 19, 1938, no. 30, as "Portrait d'Alfred de Dreux, enfant, assis dans la campagne," for Fr 30,000, to Lebel); [Robert Lebel, Paris and New York, 1938–41; sold to MMA]
Paris. Hôtel Jean Charpentier. "Exposition d'œuvres de Gericault," April 24–May 16, 1924, no. 248 (as "Portrait d'Alfred de Dreux enfant, assis dans la campagne," lent by collection T).
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen. "Exposition d'œuvres de Gericault," 1924, no catalogue.
Paris. Maison de Victor Hugo. "La jeunesse des romantiques," May 18–June 30, 1927, no. 1295 (lent from the collection of the duke of Trévise).
Paris. Bernheim-Jeune. "Exposition Gericault, peintre et dessinateur (1791–1824)," May 10–29, 1937, no. 47 (as "Portrait d'Alfred de Dreux, enfant, assis dans la campagne," lent by the duke of Trévise, Paris).
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Gros, Gericault, Delacroix," November 21–December 10, 1938, no. 26 (as "Portrait of Alfred de Dreux, [As a child sitting in the country landscape.]," lent by the duke of Trévise, Paris).
San Francisco Museum of Art. "French Romantic Artists," April 19–May 14, 1939, no. 20 (lent anonymously).
Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 38 (as "Alfred Dedreux, as a Child").
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Gericault," October 12–December 12, 1971, no. 23 (as "Portrait of Alfred Dedreux Seated in a Landscape").
Detroit Institute of Arts. "Gericault," January 23–March 7, 1972, no. 23.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Gericault," March 30–May 14, 1972, no. 23.
New York. Shepherd Gallery. "Ingres & Delacroix through Degas & Puvis de Chavannes: The Figure in French Art, 1800–1870," May–June 1975, no. 25 (as "Alfred Dedreux as a Child").
New York. Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. "Theodore Gericault (1791–1824)," April 7–May 23, 1987, no. 13 (as "Portrait d'Alfred Dedreux").
Yokohama Museum of Art. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century," March 25–June 4, 1989, no. 78 (as "Alfred Dedreux (1810–1860) as a Child").
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Géricault," October 10, 1991–January 6, 1992, no. 126 (as "Portrait d'Alfred Dedreux enfant").
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons. "Géricault, la folie d'un monde," April 19–July 30, 2006, no. 50 (as "Alfred Dedreux enfant dans la campagne").
Charles Clément. "Catalogue de l'œuvre de Gericault—Peinture." Gazette des beaux-arts 23 (September 1, 1867), p. 275, no. 15, under the heading "Peintures (1810 à 1812)," calls it "Portrait d'un jeune garçon assis dans la campagne," and states that it was included in the Delacroix sale of 1864.
Charles Clément. Géricault: étude biographique et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre du maître. 2nd ed. (1st ed. 1867). Paris, 1868, p. 280, no. 14.
Charles Clément. Géricault, étude biographique et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre du maitre. 3rd ed. (1st ed. 1867). Paris, 1879, p. 280, no. 14.
Exposition d'œuvres de Gericault. Exh. cat., Hôtel Jean Charpentier. Paris, 1924, p. 77, no. 248, states that the sitter had been identified as the King of Rome.
Klaus Berger. Géricault und sein Werk. Vienna, 1952, p. 73 (under no. 60) [English ed., trans. Winslow Ames, Lawrence, Kansas, 1955, repr. New York, 1978, p. 81], lists it with a group of children's portraits that he dates to the period 1818–19.
F. H. Lem. "Gericault portraitiste." L'arte 28 (January–June 1963), pp. 67, 86–87, no. 13, pl. V, fig. d-13, dates it 1817, on the basis of the style and the apparent age of the sitter; relates it to the double portrait of Alfred Dedreux and his sister (private collection, Paris), which he also dates 1817; states that the duke of Trévise bought it at the Goetz sale of 1922; lists provenance and exhibition history.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, p. 21, ill., date it about 1818–20; state that "the dramatic simplification of the chiaroscuro and the intense color make this one of Gericault's most characteristic works"; mention that Delacroix either bought this at Gericault's estate sale or got it from the sitter's uncle Dedreux-Dorcy.
Lorenz Eitner. Gericault. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1971, pp. 60, 177, no. 23, ill., remarks that it is characteristic of Gericault's style of about 1815–16.
Lorenz Eitner inCharles Clément: Géricault; A Biographical and Critical Study with a Catalogue Raisonné of the Master's Works; Reprint of the Definitive Edition of 1879 [with Introduction and Supplement by Eitner]. New York, 1974, p. 447, no. 14, adds provenance and exhibition details.
Philippe Grunchec inTout l'oeuvre peint de Gericault. Paris, 1978, p. 101, 104, 107, no. 95, colorpl. XVII and fig. 95, calls it "Portrait d'Alfred de Dreux enfant, assis dans la campagne" and suggests that the strong color and rather crude contrasts indicate a date before Alfred's stay in Rome with his father, Pierre-Anne Dedreux, in 1815–18; notes that this painting was included in Delacroix's posthumous inventory as no. 228.
Hélène Toussaint. French Painting: The Revolutionary Decades, 1760–1830. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales. Sydney, 1980, p. 107, dates it 1814–15? and discusses the landscape, noting that this is the last time the "heavily impasted, fleecy clouds" appear in Gericault's work.
Lorenz E. A. Eitner. Géricault, His Life and Work. London, 1983, pp. 93, 300, 334 n. 134, colorpl. 16, states that it was probably painted in the summer of 1815; discusses the odd monumetalization and harshness of the work, influenced by the "Michelangelesque grandeur" of Gericault's academic nudes of the same period.
Dewey F. Mosby. "Notes on Two Portraits of Alfred Dedreux by Gericault." Arts 58 (September 1983), pp. 84–85, fig. 2, proposes that it was painted in 1817, when both the sitter and the painter were living in Rome.
Sylvain Laveissière Régis Michel inGericault. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1991, pp. 108, 111, 363–64, no. 126, colorpl. 180, date this picture about 1819–20, on the basis of a drawing (sold, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, October 27, 1986) where Alfred is wearing the same clothing and appears to be almost ten years old.
Hôtel Drouot, Paris. Importants tableaux des XIXe et XXe siècles: Exceptionnel ensemble d'œuvres de Gericault provenant de l'ancienne collection du duc de Trévise.November 23, 1992, unpaginated, under no. 13, ill. (color), mentions it in connection with the bust-length portrait of a child, probably Aflred Dedreux, formerly in the collections of the duc de Trévise and Robert Label.
Germain Bazin. Théodore Géricault, étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné. Vol. 5, Le retour à Paris: Synthèse d'expériences plastiques. Paris, 1992, pp. 83, 237, no. 1722, ill. (color and black and white).
Stefan Germer inGéricault, la folie d'un monde. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons. Paris, 2006, pp. 27–29, 112–13, 227, no. 50, colorpl. 57, dates it 1817–18; notes that Gericault borrows the British tradition of depicting aristocrats in a landscape setting and compares it to Reynolds's portrait of "Master Crewe in the Costume of Henry VIII" (about 1775; private collection); analyzes this picture in terms of the nineteenth-century conception of childhood, observing an unsettling strangeness in Alfred's pose and expression.
Arlette Sérullaz. "Les Géricault de Delacroix." Bulletin de la Société des Amis du musée national Eugène Delacroix no. 6 (April 2008), p. 3, no. 225, cites it under the lot number from Delacroix's posthumous sale and gives details of his posthumous inventory.
Tableaux et dessins anciens et du XIXème siècle. Christie's, Paris. February 24, 2009, pp. 80, 84, 137, under no. 84, fig. 1 (color), discusses it in relation to its pendant, "Elisabeth Dedreux enfant dans la campagne" and the double portrait "Portrait d'Alfred et Elisabeth Dedreux" (lot nos. 83, 84).
Alfred Dedreux (1810–1860), who would later become known as a painter of racing and hunting scenes, was the son of the architect Pierre-Anne Dedreux (1789–1874), and the nephew of the painter Pierre-Joseph Dedreux-Dorcy (1789–1849), both friends of Gericault. The sitter was identified on the basis of his resemblance to a double portrait by Gericault of Alfred Dedreux with his sister (formerly Becq de Fouquières collection; sold, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 8, 1925, no. 24; private collection, Paris). See Mosby 1983 for a different theory concerning the identity of the little girl. In the MMA portrait the little boy appears to be between eight and ten years old, which would place the picture about 1818–1820, a dating that accords with the style in which it was painted.
A bust-length portrait by Gericault of a child, probably Alfred Dedreux, was loaned to an exhibition in Rome in 1979–80 by Robert Lebel, Paris.
The pendant to this portrait depicts the sitter's sister Elisabeth Dedreux in the Roman countryside (private collection). An x-ray of the pendant revealed that it was painted over an image of the head of Alfred Dedreux.