Delacroix's Moroccan Travel Diaries

Join Eugène Delacroix on his first trip to the Orient.

By Château de Chantilly

Notebook opened on Folio 27, Study of a Jewish woman (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

On January 10, 1832, the painter Eugène Delacroix embarked on a six-month journey that would forever change his life and painting. He accompanied Count Charles de Mornay, a young diplomat that was commissioned by King Louis-Philippe to undertake a diplomatic mission to Morocco to negotiate with Sultan Moulay Abd er-Rahman. 

This unique trip to the Orient was a real aesthetic shock for Delacroix. 

Curious about everything, he collected notes and drawings in notebooks, which constituted a sort of pictorial repertoire from which he drew inspiration to compose his Orientalist paintings until the end of his days. 

At the posthumous sale of the artist's studio, the painter Adrien Dauzats purchased this notebook on behalf of Henri d'Orléans, Duke of Aumale, the last owner of the Château de Chantilly. 

Folio 7, Woman in the red skirt (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

Delacroix wrote a book of memoirs about his trip: Souvenir of Travels in Morocco, an Unfinished Manuscript, in which the artist dives into his memories, and of course into his notebooks, to recount the story of his trip.

Folio 7, Woman in the red skirt (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

On several occasions, he mentions the beauty of Jewish women and meticulously lingers on their outfits.

Clothing, fineries, hair … Everything captured the artist's attention. He was fascinated by their beauty: "Jewish women are remarkable. I fear that it would be difficult to do anything else with them other than to paint them: they are pearls of Eden ."

Folio 11, Costume of a Jewish woman from Tangier (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

The complexity of the outfits intrigued Delacroix, who made numerous detailed studies of them. Here is what he wrote on the subject: "These women are both beautiful and pretty, and their clothes have a certain dignity that does not exclude grace or coquetry. "

  

Folio 15, Young woman with big earrings (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

Delacroix also gives a very precise description of the jewelry: "Huge earrings overloaded with uncut stones, in the style of Gothic or Byzantine jewelry, frame these pretty faces."

Folio 19, Woman wearing the Haik (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

In the Chantilly notebook, there are few male representations.

This face of the man who wanted a violin is as mysterious in its presence as it is in the annotation that accompanies it.

Delacroix continued his study of attire by depicting a woman draped in a haïk. Each region of the Maghreb had its own way of wearing it, and Delacroix chose the fashion of Tripoli. 

Folio 25, Détails of the back of a costume (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

The artist doesn't always have time to color his drawings, but is still concerned with getting all the details and specifics of the clothes correct. 

He doesn't forget to annotate the colors and fabrics:  white, red, green velvet, light green.

 

Folio 27, Study of a Jewish woman (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

This is probably Precidia Ben Chimol, the daughter of Abraham Ben Chimol, the interpreter at the French consulate in Tangier who accompanied the delegation. It is thanks to him that Delacroix was able to enter the Jewish community of Tangier and learn about their daily life.  

Folio 29, Feminine head with a veil and a turban (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

A stunning pencil study of a young woman wearing a huge, probably ceremonial, headdress.

Folio 31, Woman sitting with a checkered veil (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

Delacroix continued his study of female attire, and more particularly of adornments: various necklaces, rings, and always impressive earrings framing a thin face.

Folio 37, Sketch of Arabs (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

In the Chantilly notebook, drawings featuring men are rare and not very detailed.

On this page, in a few serpentine lines, Delacroix illustrates a study of a crouching man seen from different angles

Folio 39, House under the trees (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

On April 23, Delacroix was in Tangier. He walked a lot there. Here is what he wrote to his friend Pierret: "I go for horseback rides in the surrounding areas, which give me infinite pleasure, and I have moments of delicious laziness in a garden at the city gates, under an abundance of orange trees in bloom and covered with fruit …"

Folio 39, House under the trees (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

Folio 41, Landscape with the city walls of Tangier (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

While walking in the hills around Tangier, Delacroix discovered a vantage point from which to capture all the nuances of the vegetation. Watercolor is the technique of choice for traveling painters, since it requires only a few materials and dries very quickly. However, it also requires quick execution and a well-trained hand.  

Folio 45, Entrance of Arabic house (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

Delacroix also studied the architecture and drew Arab houses in his notebooks. He brought back studies from Morocco and Algiers that were later reused in some of his paintings, the most famous of which are "The Jewish Wedding" in Morocco and "Women of Algiers."

Folio 48, Arabic courtyard and staircase (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

We know that thanks to his interpreter Abraham Ben Chimol, Delacroix was able to enter some of the houses in Tangier. 

In his drawings, the artist often favors the small details of architectural elements such as doors, windows, niches, and tiles on the floor.

Folio 57, Two women in a house (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

On this beautiful watercolor page, Delacroix plays on the contrasting colors and uses the white of the paper to provide the light in his composition.

Folio 59, Jamila Bouzaglo, portrait and notes (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

On Sunday, April 29, Delacroix visited Jacob Bouzaglo, a prominent Jew in Tangier.On this page, he drew a portrait of Bouzaglo's daughter Jamila, who wrote him a few words in Judeo-Spanish: "Mr. Delacroix, Mr. Mornay, Mr. Frayssinet, and Mr. Marcussen were kind enough to visit me on Sunday, April 29. Jamila Bouzaglo."

Folio 61, Portrait of Jamila Bouzaglo (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

In this beautiful portrait of Jamila Bouzaglo, Delacroix lingers on the young woman's face. 

With a pencil, the artist reveals all the subtleties of her face and lingers on her thick black hair and deep look. 

The look of Moroccan women he describes so beautifully:

"Everyone knows the charm of her oriental eyes, the brightness of which is enhanced by this black line created using kohl . This invention makes the eye particularly attractive. I don't know ... it's a little feline-like and a little fierce, which animates these small soft, regular faces." 

Folio 63, Jewish women (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

This beautiful watercolor shows an interior that Delacroix took the time to detail. 

Delacroix doesn't seek out the picturesque bazaar. Rather, it is authenticity, without artifice, that invites us to share in this intimate moment.

Folio 81, Woman in the blue skirt (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

A beautiful study of a Jewish woman, in which we can see an inscription by the artist: "sol/solica". 

This name recalls that of a young Jewish martyr from Tangier, who was beheaded in Fez in 1834, two years after the trip to Morocco.  

It's possible that Delacroix met the young woman in Tangier, unless this annotation was made after the drawing, and marks his intention to create a painting about the story of this woman using this watercolor. 

Folio 83, The city walls of Tangier (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

The Chantilly album covers the last three months of the trip—a period of heavy travel: Tangier, Cadiz, and Seville, followed by Oran and Algiers. This view of Tangier was taken from the ship La Perle, which was preparing to leave Morocco for a short stay in Andalucia.

Folio 87, View of Cadiz from the harbour (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

Before docking in Andalucia in May 1832, the ship had to undergo quarantine in Cadiz harbor because of a cholera epidemic that was spreading throughout Europe. 

Folio 87, View of Cadiz from the harbour (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

Delacroix relieved his boredom by drawing the ships. He finally docked the next day, on Wednesday May 16, and his diary reads: "… obtained entry to Cadiz. Extreme joy ."

Folio 91, Aloe and cactus landscape (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

Delacroix played with the transparency of watercolor wonderfully. 

In this drawing, we find the motif of the aloe plant, typical of North Africa, which Delacroix admired because of its long, dark, sharp leaves and graphic appearance.

Folio 95, Riders in the hills (1832) by Eugène DelacroixChâteau de Chantilly

The final watercolor in the notebook—Delacroix was almost at the end of his journey. This watercolor, with its minimalist composition, is like a final look at the Moroccan landscape where only the essential—light—is maintained.

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