Eugène Delacroix
(Charenton-Saint-Maurice, 1798-1863, Paris)
Muley Abd-el-Rahman, 1862
Oil on canvas, on panel, 69.5 x 57.5 cm
Signed & dated bottom, left of center: Eug. Delacroix 1862
Johnson 417
The nostalgia for the Orient fascinated the young Romantic Delacroix from the beginning of his career, even if the studio props of a Jules-Robert Auguste weren't very satisfying to begin with. However, in 1832 Delacroix was invited to accompany Count Charles de Mornay to Morocco on a mission for Louis-Philippe. His dream now became a brilliantly coloured reality, the reality of a time honoured Mediterranean world which overwhelmed him. In seven sketch books, three of which have survived, Delacroix gathered the wealth of impressions he received in Morocco, and accompanied them with explanatory notes. These were an inexhaustible fund of vivid recollections for the artist down to his end.
The aim and climax of the journey was the reception of the delegation by Muley Abd-el-Rahman, the Sultan of Morocco, on 22 March 1832. Only thirteen years later was the monumental painting finished which shows the Sultan, surrounded by his dignitaries and his Guard before the city walls of Meknes. Delacroix exhibited this picture in the Salon of 1845, and it is now in the Museum of Toulouse. In 1845, 1856, and 1862 followed three small replicas, the picture now in the Bührle collection being the last one. It was painted only one year before Delacroix’s death, and it reveals how fresh the artist’s memories still were. The composition was first conceived as a representation of the meeting between Mornay and the Sultan, but then Delacoix's attention is focussed on the Sultan and his retinue, surrounded by a few guards. On a brown background there stand out various gradations of white in the uniforms of the guard, shot through by the blazing red of bridles, robes and headgear, a scene of Oriental opulence memorialized by the artist.