The Shipwreck of Don Juan: A Sketch; La barque de don juan. Première pensée.
- Place of origin:
Delacroix, born 1798 - died 1863 (artist)
- Materials and Techniques:
oil on canvas
- Credit Line:
Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Paintings, room 81, case WEST WALL
Delacroix was born near Paris but grown up in The Hague where his father was Ministre Plénipotentiaire. He first trained with Pierre Guérin (1774-1833) and then entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1816. He soon specialised in history and religious paintings while recognition from the public started with his debut at the Salon in 1822, which immediately heralded him as a major figure of the French school.
This painting depicts a scene from Lord Byron's Don Juan and shows the moment in which Don Juan and a few survivors from a shipwreck draw lots for whom would be sacrificed to feed his starving companions. This painting was probably made in the 1820s at the very beginning of Delacroix's career. It is a fine example of the type of subject matter combining suffering and death, which was most favour by Delacroix and the Romantic movement.
In the foreground is a large rowing-boat crowded with figures; one man holds a hat in which another has placed his hand. The sea and a sunset sky in the background.
Place of Origin
Delacroix, born 1798 - died 1863 (artist)
Materials and Techniques
oil on canvas
Height: 81.3 cm estimate, Width: 99.7 cm estimate
Object history note
Delacroix's posthumous sale, Feb.1864, lot 140 for 1.500 francs to Mr Haro; with Durand-Ruel by 1874; Sold to Emile de Girardin; Exposition Durand-Ruel 1878, n. 147, as belonging to Edwin Edwards; his sale, Paris, 24 February 1881, lot 18; sold for 7.700 fr.(ca.£305); Constantine Alexander Ionides by November 1881 (listed in his inventory as 'Don Juans Boat' at a valuation of £600); Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900.
Historical significance: This painting is one of the two versions painted by Delacroix in his early career and was probably the one originally entitled La Barque de don Juan. Première pensée. It shows the shipwreck of an embarkation crowded with figures, out at sea under a sunset sky.
The subject matter was drawn from Lord Byron's Don Juan, Canto II, which tells the story of don Juan embarking on a voyage from Cadiz on the ship Trinidada. While out at sea a storm sank the ship and the survivors sought refuge on a long rowing-boat. After a few days they ran out of food and had to draw lot to choose who would be sacrificed. It is Juan's tutor, Pedrillo (stanze 74-76).
According to Robaut, this painting is an oil study for the painting presented at the Salon in 1841 and now in the Louvre, Paris. But P. Joannides and L. Johnson more recently suggested that CAI.64 was actually an unfinished oil painting executed in the mid-1820s on the basis that it is quite different in conception from the Salon version and closer to the two preparatory studies in the Louvre, which date from 1820s.
The theme of a fragile craft out at sea is recurrent in Delacroix's oeuvre since his first Salon piece, The Barque of Dante Paris, Louvre, in 1822. It also probably challenged the work of Géricault, Raft of the Medusa, 1819, Louvre, Paris.
This painting is a good example of Delacroix's output. He was indeed one of the first artists of his generation to respond to the writings of foreign authors such as Goethe, Schiller, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. These texts provided somehow appropriate subject matters for his interest in suffering, insanity, death and violence which would become one the characteristics of the Romantic movement.
Historical context note
The word Romanticism derived from the medieval term ‘romance’ and was first used by the German poets and critics August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel to label a wider cultural movement beginning with the late 18th and ending towards the mid 19th century. Romanticism started first in Western Europe as a literary and philosophical movement and only gradually involved the other arts, explicitly around 1800. Romantic artists were fascinated by nature they interpreted as a mirror of the mind. They investigated human nature and personality, the folk culture, the national and ethnic origins, the medieval era, the exotic, the remote, the mysterious and the occult. The interest in the exotic and the non-Western, illustrated in France by such a painter as Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), as well as the medieval revival, witnessed in England by Horace Walpole (1717-1797), are perhaps the most identifiable parts of Romanticism. It is really in the Post-Napoleonic period that this movement gained ascendancy. Its greatest proponents were among others Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) and François-René de Chateaubriant (1768-1848) in France, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) in England, Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) and Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) in Germany. In the visual arts, it was largely played out by 1850, but in music it persists for another generation.
Oil painting, 'The Shipwreck of Don Juan', Eugène Delacroix, 1820s
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
'The Constantine Alexander Ionides Bequest. article 2, Ingres, Delacroix, Daumier and Degas', The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 5, n. 18 (Sept 1904), p. 529.
'The finished study for the Shipwreck of Don Juan is an excellent example of the synthetic power by which he could sum up the intensity of a tragic subject in terms of passionate and emphatic colour'
C.M. Kauffmann,Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London, 1973, pp. 27-28, cat. no. 61.
The following is the full text of the entry:
Ferdinand Victor Eugène DELACROIX (1798-1863)
Born near Paris, the son of a high government official, he became a pupil of Guérin in 1815 and received instruction in water-colour painting from Thales Fielding, with whom he lived for a time in Paris. He was influenced by the work of Constable, exhibited at the Salon in 1824 and came to England in 1825. In 1832 he visited Morocco. As the leading exponent of Romantic painting, Delacroix met with much opposition, and it was not until 1857 that he became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. He painted portraits, animals and religious, mythological, allegorical and historical subjects.
THE SHIPWRECK OF DON JUAN: A SKETCH
32 x 39 ¼ (81.3 x 99.7)
This painting illustrates the incident described in Byron's Don Juan, Canto 11. Don Juan and his shipwrecked companions are drawing lots as to 'who should die to be his fellows' food':
The lots were made, and mark'd and mix'd, and handed
In silent horror'.
It is a sketch for the Naufrage de don Juan in the Louvre (130 x 195 cm. which was painted in 1840 and exhibited at the Salon in the following year. There are also two pen drawings in the Louvre (RF 6743 and 9361) which are described and reproduced together with the large oil painting by M. Serullaz, Mémorial de l'Exposition Eugène Delacroix, 1963, p. 227 ff., nos. 303-05. This sketch differs from the final version principally in that the boat is much more crowded, but there are differences also in the background - particularly in the position and prominence of the sun - and in the treatment of the boat itself. An etching of it was made by Le Rat for Durand-Ruel (Robaut, 1885).
G. H. Hamilton ('Delacroix, Byron and the English Illustrators' in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, xxxvi (2), 1949, p. 271, figs. 12-3) suggested that the composition was derived from George Cruikshank's engraving in G. Clinton, Memoirs of the life and writings of Lord Byron, which was published in 1825, when Delacroix was in England. Hamilton compares five of Cruikshank's illustrations with Delacroix's compositions of Byronic subjects and there seems little doubt that the French painter was acquainted with Cruikshank's work. However, in this instance Cruikshank's composition, while generically similar, is not very close in detail to either this sketch or the final version. Shipwreck was a most popular subject in Romantic painting (see, for example, T. S. R. Boase in J. W. C. I., xxii, 1959, P.332 ff.), and it seems likely that Delacroix was inspired by other sources as well as Cruikshank's engraving. The Naufrage had a well-known forerunner in Géricault's Raft of the Medusa, 1819, and Long pointed to similarities with Rowlandson's Distress (Girtin Collection; A. P. Oppe, Thomas Rowlandson, 1923, pl. 45), which was engraved and which also contains the figure of a man with his elbows on the gunwale. Huyghe (1963, pp. 464-69), discussing the theme of shipwreck, points out Delacroix's influence on later artists.
Delacroix himself painted several related compositions, in particular the Naufragés abandonnés (Robaut, no. 1473, 1821; and no. 1010, 1847) and Christ on the Lake of Gennesaret (Robaut, nos. 1214-20, 1853; now private collection, Zurich).
Prov. Probably identical with La Barque de Don Juan; première pensée sold at the posthumous sale of Delacroix's remaining works in 1864 (lot 140) for 1,500 francs to M. Haro; Durand-Ruel; Émile de Girardin (according to Robaut); sold Paris, 24 Feb. 1881, for 7,700 francs; before 1884, Constantine Alexander Ionides; bequeathed to the Museum in 1900.
Exh. Exposition d'Eugène Delacroix, Société Nationale des Beaux Arts, Paris, 1864, no. 123 (lent by M. Haro); French and Dutch Loan Collection, Edinburgh International Exhibition, 1886, no. 1098 (no. 40 of Mem, Cat., repr. p. 26); French and Dutch Romanticists, Dowdeswell Galleries, 1889, no. 100.
Lit. 'Vente Eugene Delacroix' in L' Artiste, 1864, pI. i, p. 142; Revue Universelle des Arts, 1864, p. 137; La Chronique des Arts, 1881, p. 69 (account of sale of 24 Feb.); Monkhouse, 1884, p. 39; A. Robaut, L'oeuvre complet de Eugène Delacroix, 1885, no. 686 & p. 491 (though it is not, as he states, signed); Memorial of the French and Dutch Loan Collection, Edinburgh International Exhibition 1886, 1888 (repr. of a sketch of it by William Hole, R.S.A.); Sir C. Holmes in Burl. Mag., v, 1904, p. 529; Anon., 'Additions to the National Collections' in Athenaeum, July 1904, p. 119; Long, Cat. Ionides Coll., 1925, p. 21 f., pl. 12; V. & A. Museum, French paintings, 1949, pl. 21.: R. Huyghe, Delacroix, 1963, p. 490, fig. 342.
100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum.London: V&A, 1985, p.112
'Vente Eugene Delacroix' in L' Artiste, 1864, pI. i, p. 142.
Revue Universelle des Arts, 1864, p. 137.
La Chronique des Arts, 1881, p. 69.
Account of sale of 24 Feb.
C. Monkhouse, 'The Constantine Ionides Collection' in Magazine of Art, vii, 1884, p. 39.
A. Robaut, L'oeuvre complet de Eugène Delacroix, 1885, no. 686 & p. 491
Though it is not, as he states, signed.
Memorial of the French and Dutch Loan Collection, Edinburgh International Exhibition 1886, 1888.
Repr. of a sketch of it by William Hole, R.S.A.
Sir C. Holmes in The Burlington MagAzine, v, 1904, p. 529.
Anon., 'Additions to the National Collections' in Athenaeum, 23 July 1904, p. 119.
B.S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection. Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London, 1925, p. 21 f., pl. 12.
V. & A. Museum, French paintings, 1949, pl. 21.
R. Huyghe, Delacroix, 1963, p. 490, fig. 342.
C. Maltese, Delacroix, Milan, 1965, p. 165.
L. Johnson, The paintings of Eugène Delacroix. A Critical Catalogue, Oxford, 1986, vol.III, cat. no. 275, vol. IV, pl. 96.
P. Joannides in B. S. Wright ed., Delacroix, Cambridge, 2001, p. 135-136, fig. 49.
French and Dutch Romanticists (Dowdeswell Galleries 01/01/1889-31/12/1889)
French and Dutch Loan Collection (Edinburgh International Exhibition 01/01/1886-31/12/1886)
Exposition Eugène Delacroix (Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris 01/01/1864-31/12/1864)
Oil paint; Canvas
Figures; Boats; Sea; Shipwreck; Don Juan
Paintings; Myths & Legends