EUGÈNE DELACROIX (Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798 - Paris 1863) HEAD OF A PEASANT WOMAN WITH LARGE HAT (A preparatory drawing for the painting 'The Education of the Virgin', 1842)
Pencil on laid paper, estate sale stamp lower right (Lugt 838a); 155 x 179 mm. Pasted on a decorated mount. PROVENANCE: The cardboard on the back of the original frame bears the label of the 'EXPOSITION DELACROIX / Musée du Louvre et Bibliotheque Nationale / Juin-Juillet 1930'. The inscriptions in pen on the label indicate the owner of the drawing as 'Madame Malvy', who is in fact to be identified with Louise de Verninac Malvy, the daughter of Charles de Verninac, who was the only son of Delacroix's sister, Henriette de Verninac; Delacroix's junior by only five years, he and Delacroix developed a close relationship that continued when Charles studied law in Paris from 1822-1824 and then stayed to work there until 1829. Regarding to the description of the drawing, the pen inscription on the label is very precise; it reads 'Etude fatte à Nohant pour l'Education de la Vierge'. The writings in pen on the label do not indicate a catalogue number and, in fact, the drawing is not mentioned in the catalogue of the exhibition (Exposition Eugène Delacroix: peintures, aquarelles, pastels, dessins gravures, documents : Juin-Juillet 1930). However, under the label is stamped the number 22, which is, much probably, the numbering of the works exhibited but not in the catalogue. The backing cardboard bears also the stamped mark 'GALLERIA DEL MILIONE / MILANO / VIA BIGLI, 2'. Founded in 1930 and still existing, the Milanese gallery 'Il Milione' was specialized in works by Italian artists of the 20th century. The gallery has been located in Via Bigli from 1951 until the nineties. Finally, the backing cardboard bears the round label 'COLLEZIONE ANNA ANDREOLI' inscribed with the number 45; but I have no information at all about this collection. The drawing is, in all evidence, the preparatory study for the the head of St. Anne in the painting 'The Education of the Virgin'. Delacroix painted this canvas in June 1842, during his first trip to the Berry region, where he stayed in Nohant with George Sand. He intended to give the painting to the village church, whose patron was Saint Anne. As for the theme, he was inspired by a scene he witnessed during one of his walks. In his own words, in a letter addressed to George Sand "As I was entering the garden, I just saw the subject for a superb painting, a scene that affected me considerably. It was your farmer with her small daughter. I could watch them as much as I wanted from behind a shrub, where they couldn’t see me. They were both sitting on a tree trunk. The old woman had her hand on the shoulder of the child, who was attentively learning a reading lesson". Our drawing is clearly a study of the head of the old woman, with her large peasant cap.