This ink and watercolor drawing is a study for Eugène Delacroix's Virgin of the Harvest: the future genius of Romanticism's first commission.
Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), The Virgin of the Harvest (study), brown ink, pencil, and watercolor on three joined sheets of paper mounted on canvas, studio stamp in the bottom right-hand corner, 98.5 x 57 cm/38.8 x 22.4 in.
Delacroix was around 20 years old when he was commissioned to paint a Madonna and Child for the altarpiece of the parish church of Saint-Eutrope, in Orcemont, near Rambouillet in the Yvelines. When Jacques Gouffier, a wealthy countryman from Orcemont, entrusted him with this work, the young artist was still a student at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he had entered Guérin's studio in 1816. He moved to La Ferme du Racinay to paint this composition, which soon became the Virgin of the Harvest, depicted with a bundle of hay at her feet and a background of fields to evoke his patron's activity.
While this study does not yet embody the Romantic style found in The Barque of Dante, presented in 1822, the mastery of the diligent student striving to emulate the Old Masters is still plain to see. This Virgin is clearly inspired by Raphael's Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist. And the painting's success prompted Théodore Géricault to contact Delacroix to subcontract his commission for The Virgin of the Sacred Heart. Completed in 1821, the latter, now in Ajaccio Cathedral, although originally intended for St. Peter's Cathedral in Nantes, was this time inspired by Michelangelo.