Nearly 40 drawings on exhibit at the Graphic Arts Cabinet of the Condé Museum in Chantilly illustrate the orientalism of Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, Horace Vernet and Eugène Delacroix.
Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), Album du voyage au Maroc : Intérieur d’une maison juive à Tanger (Morocco Travel Album: Interior of a Jewish Home in Tangier), 1832, lead pencil and watercolor, 19.5 x 12.5 cm/ 7.68 x 4.92 in.
© RMN-Grand Palais Domaine de Chantilly, Michel Urtado
The 39 drawings, pastels and watercolors from the duc d’Aumale’s orientalist collection and Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux’s album exhibited in five rooms of the Château de Chantilly’s graphic arts cabinet have two things in common. They reflect the painters’ fascination with North Africa and the Near East since the Egyptian campaign and allude to the passion of French king Louis-Philippe’s son, the former governor of Algeria, who, from 1848 to 1880, put together a collection of drawings constituted by new acquisitions (like Auguste Raffet’s album, with 800 drawings). Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps’ striking Cavalerie turque asiatique traversant un gué (Asiatic Turkish Cavalry Crossing a Ford), treated in grisaille, is enhanced and heightened by a green mantle covering a rider on his horse. From Ottoman Empire mercenaries (La Marche de bachi-bouzouks, Marching bashi-bouzouks) to panoramas of Palestine (Vue d’Hébron, View of Hebron), Decamps, one of the foremost Orientalists, celebrated by the French Academy, explored unreal lights and sensitive shadows, preceding his emulators, such as Edward Lear (L’Ile de Philae en Haute-Égypte, The Island of Philae in Upper Egypt) and Jean Fournier (Prière du matin dans le desert, Morning Prayer in the desert), who, between idealization and nostalgia, reinvented the landscape. In the same burst of enthusiasm, in 1832 Eugène Delacroix traveled across Morocco, recording the energy, strength and tranquility of an “antiquity refound” in his notebook of sketches and watercolors. Like a history book full of legendary stories, the collection reflects a vision that is, admittedly, colonial, but lacks Western exoticism and fantasies. Here, Horace Vernet, Adrien Dauzats and Édouard Girardet combined monumental natural sites with outsized battles. From Turkey to Syria, Egypt and Algeria, they composed an anthology as poetic as it is historical, where virtuoso lines and chosen instants become one.