Portrait of Aspasie Eugene Delacroix Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Eugene Delacroix was clearly highly skilled within a variety of genres, though portraiture was not one of the more prominent ones. He may have been highly accomplished within this discipline, but he just was more interested in ambitious history paintings and those became the highlights of his career.

All of that contributes to this portrait of Aspasie becoming a lesser known artwork within his career. That said, there is much to appreciate here, both in terms of the technical qualities of the painting, but also in the uniqueness of this composition. The model sits in a simple wooden chair, wearing revealing clothes that display part of her chest. Her dress is patterned with simple dashed lines and she sports pretty earrings and a black necklace. Her hair is dark brown and swept back. Her expression is reserved, neither happy nor sad, merely keeping a focus on the artist as he puts her portrait together. Behind her is a plain brown background which serves two main purposes, firstly to avoid distracting the eye away from the model, and secondly to provide a dark contrast to the main figure who is draped in light.

This portrait is dated at around 1824-1826 and resides at the Musée Fabre, Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole, though was recently loaned to the the Louvre and also The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the 2018/2019 Delacroix exhibition that toured around several cities. This actually allowed the piece an increased prominence as it has always been a lesser known artwork within Delacroix's career, partly because of the large number of pieces that he produced across his lifetime. It is also a fairly small portrait, less than one metre tall, though perhaps the artist felt that this was a more suitable size for an individual portrait, as all of his larger canvases would normally be used for much more complex compositions. Etude d'après le modèle Aspasie was the original title of this work for the French painter, and might it have been gifted? Delacroix produced a number of drawings and paintings within his career with the intention of giving them to friends, so perhaps this woman was a friend with whom he wanted to show affection via this route.

At this stage, little is known about the painting or the woman pictured. That said, perhaps some documentation remains in French but has yet to be translated into English, as is the case with many lesser known facts around the great French artists of the 17th to 19th century. Delacroix himself would also keep a private journal for many years and so there maybe more information about this woman within that. Her facial expression and pose feels entirely memorable, as if she was important at the time, and so there must be more information about her somewhere.

Portrait of Aspasie in Detail Eugene Delacroix