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5 The first posthumous

retrospective in France
The Paul Delaroche exhibition, a
new perception of the artist’s work
Marie-Claire Rodriguez

On 21 April 1857, an exhibition opened at the École impériale et spéciale des Beaux-
Arts in Paris the like of which had never been seen before in France. It was dedicated
to the work of a single artist, Paul Delaroche, who had died a few months earlier, on
4 November 1856 (Figure 5.1). Until then, the exhibition world in Paris had consisted
mainly of the official annual or biennial Salon and a few privately initiated collective
events such as those organised at the Bazar Bonne-Nouvelle by the Association des
artistes peintres, sculpteurs, architectes, graveurs et dessinateurs, a mutual aid society
founded in December 1844 by Baron Taylor.1 Normally, the Salon allowed each artist
to present only a limited number of new works, but the official exhibition of 1855,
which formed part of the World Fair, had been an exception. Artists had been given
the opportunity to submit to the jury an unlimited number of works, including ones
previously exhibited.2 Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps,
Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Gudin, Horace Vernet and Henri Lehmann had each
had the privilege of presenting a sizable number of works, providing a retrospective
overview of their careers. Meanwhile, Gustave Courbet had proposed a retrospective
of his work in his ‘pavillon du réalisme’.
Precedents for monographic retrospectives were rare: in 1783, Pahin de la Blanche-
rie had held an exhibition of paintings by Joseph Vernet in his Salon de la Correspon-
dance, and in 1822, Horace Vernet had organised his own exhibition of forty-five
paintings in his studio.3 But in 1857, no posthumous retrospective had yet taken
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place on French soil, although the genre had developed abroad, notably in England
and the United States. Despite new opportunities for exhibitions afforded by the
development of art galleries from the 1870s, retrospective monographic exhibitions
were rarely sought by artists, but the genre did see significant success in France as a
post-mortem tribute. By focussing here on this first posthumous retrospective, dedi-
cated to Paul Delaroche, we intend firstly to describe the circumstances of its appear-
ance while highlighting the role of those involved. Secondly, we will examine the
means of its realisation and composition, through the selection of works and their
display. Finally, our attention will be directed to its critical reception. By presenting a
new approach to the works of Delaroche, the exhibition gave rise to an exceptional
re-evaluation of his oeuvre.
On 20 November 1856, the print publisher and art dealer Adolphe Goupil, much
affected by the death of Paul Delaroche, wrote to the engraver Paolo Mercuri, ‘It’s
a public loss and for many people an irreparable misfortune. For me, it’s a constant
void’.4 Further on, he announces the imminent opening of a ‘general exhibition of all
the works of this great artist’ (‘exposition générale de toutes les œuvres de ce grand

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Figure 5.1 Title page of Delaroche’s exhibition catalogue, 1857, 21 × 12 cm, private collection
Source: © Pamella Guerdat

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First posthumous retrospective in France – Paul Delaroche 71
artiste’). Goupil, who over the course of nearly thirty years had developed a close
professional and personal relationship with the painter, was, unsurprisingly, the insti-
gator of this retrospective. By publishing engravings of the master’s work, Goupil had
contributed both to the creation of his oeuvre and to its renown, enabling Delaroche
‘to be a new kind of artist, working always with a view to reproducibility’, and ‘to
become the best-known artist in Europe, indeed the whole Western world’.5 Engrav-
ing was of particular importance to Delaroche, who saw in it ‘the sole means of
guaranteeing his fame against the disappearance of his works’ and as a way ‘to raise a
monument to his memory in his lifetime’.6 So in organising the posthumous retrospec-
tive of Delaroche’s work, Goupil was in a way responding to the painter’s concern for
his posterity and continuing the memorial project begun during his lifetime.
Goupil was undoubtedly aware of foreign precedents regarding posthumous ret-
rospectives. His desire to establish his business on an international scale – an ambi-
tion evident since the firm’s creation in 1829 – had prompted him to send emissaries
to monitor the artistic world of large cities such as London and New York with a
view to setting up branches there. He must therefore have noted the existence in the
English-speaking world of a practice of holding commemorative exhibitions that was
encountering great success. The British Institution had notably organised in London,
in 1842, a posthumous retrospective dedicated to the painter Sir David Wilkie, and
similar exhibitions, organised by the American Art Union, had been held in New
York, devoted to Henry Inman in 1846 and Thomas Cole in 1848.7 On the strength
of these successful precedents, Goupil could be confident in the success of his ven-
ture, especially as the exhibition planned for 1857 responded to a desire that had
been expressed by the public two years earlier on the occasion of the World Fair. The
absence of Delaroche, whose last participation at the Salon was in 1837, had been
universally lamented. Visitors were hoping to see there his most famous paintings,
mainly preserved in private collections, but also to discover work he had produced
over the previous eighteen years. Despite his withdrawal from public life, probably
due to the vehemence of certain criticisms of his works, he had remained an eminently
popular painter whose work was continuing to be circulated in the form of prints.8
His death was widely felt, and numerous obituaries praised the painter. In this par-
ticularly favourable context, the organisation of a retrospective of Delaroche’s work
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was not a risky gamble; on the contrary, its success was guaranteed.
His profession and his long association with Delaroche gave Goupil both the con-
tacts and the knowledge necessary to successfully accomplish this exhibition project.
However, the opening of the retrospective was thanks to the unprecedented collabo-
ration of leading figures from different fields brought together by the death of the
artist. The co-organiser of the exhibition was Adolphe d’Eichthal, the executor of the
painter’s will and the legal guardian of his two children. In this capacity, he was able
to authorise the presentation of works that they had inherited and that were destined
to be sold. Actively involved in the organisation of the exhibition, Adolphe d’Eichthal
also had a financial role. A figure in the banking world, he was an indispensable
partner to businessmen and shrewd collectors the Pereire brothers and, according to
Antoine Etex, financed, with Emile Pereire, the building that housed the exhibition
within the École des Beaux-Arts.9 Emile Pereire, who likewise belonged to Delaroche’s
inner circle – he had notably entrusted him with the assembling of his collection
of modern paintings10 – would also have been, according to Gustave Vapereau, the
guarantor for all the master’s works.11 With the presence of these two rich bankers

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72 Marie-Claire Rodriguez
alongside the art dealer in the organising committee for the exhibition, the crucial
issue of financing was resolved.
Finally, the exhibition was made possible thanks to the cooperation of the École
des Beaux-Arts, where grief at the painter’s death had been deeply felt. Elected as a
member of the Institute on 3 November 1832, Delaroche was appointed professor in
the prestigious institution a year later. Between 1836 and 1841, he had undertaken the
famous decoration of its hemicycle, whose damage by fire in December 1855 caused
great distress. Despite the government’s proposal to make the Palais de l’Industrie
available for the exhibition, Goupil and d’Eichthal wanted it to take place at the École
des Beaux-Arts, close to the artist’s major achievement. The commission appointed
within the institution to examine the feasibility of the project showed immediate
interest in the idea of ‘bearing witness to the esteem in which it h[e]ld the illustri-
ous colleague whose loss it mourn[ed]’.12 Among its members was Horace Vernet,
the father-in-law of the deceased, who was also named president of the commission
formed by Goupil. The professional relationship that Vernet had with the publisher
certainly facilitated discussions with the École des Beaux-Arts. After much debate on
the disruption the exhibition could cause to the school, the proposal put forward by
Felix Duban, the school’s architect, for a temporary building on vacant land north
of the Palais, between the right wing and the garden of the Hôtel de Chimay, was
approved.13 It was at this location that the exhibition, housed in an iron building,
welcomed visitors from 21 April to 5 June 1857. The exceptional collaboration that
arose from the relationships Paul Delaroche had had with his art dealer and publisher
Adolphe Goupil and the École des Beaux-Arts had enabled the realisation of his post-
humous retrospective at the institution and had opened the door in France to a new
form of exhibition and to a new way to commemorate artists.
The exhibition at the École des Beaux-Arts included sixty-nine paintings plus sixty
drawings and watercolours by the master. In 1855, Delaroche had made a list of
his works, which was completed after his death by his students. This valuable list –
which included, where possible, the location of the works – may have provided the
foundation for the exhibition.14 In any event, Goupil was certainly better placed than
anyone to know the whole of Delaroche’s work. On 7 February 1857, he gave Horace
Vernet a summary – albeit incomplete – of the proposed selection, listing the paint-
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ings and drawings that had already been acquired as well as those he was hoping
to obtain.15 Unlike the Association des artistes, which had also had the idea of an
exhibition devoted to the master but limited to his work after 1837, Goupil intended
to present a retrospective covering the whole of his career.16 Thus works presented at
the Salon, such as Joan of Arc in Prison17 (1824 Salon), The Execution of Lady Jane
Grey18 (1834 Salon) and The Assassination of the Duc de Guise (1835 Salon; Figure
5.2), were mixed with paintings created after 1837, which, for the most part, had
been reproduced by Maison Goupil but had remained unseen by the Parisian public.
Goupil could count on the presence of, for example, The Childhood of Pico della
Mirandola,19Moses on the Nile20 and The Last Farewell of the Girondins21 and was
still hoping to have Napoleon at Fontainebleau,22The Virgin in the Desert (or Virgin
and Child)23 and Pilgrims in Rome.24
The last two of these paintings were finally unable to be exhibited, but engravings
of them were shown in the retrospective. In his letter to Mercuri (see note 4), Goupil
had expressed his desire to present all the engravings of Delaroche’s works, but in the
end their presence was very scarce, probably to avoid any suspicion of commercialism.

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First posthumous retrospective in France – Paul Delaroche 73

Figure 5.2 Paul Delaroche, The Assassination of the Duc de Guise, 1834, 57 × 98 cm, Chan-
tilly, Musée Condé, inv. PE 450
Source: © RMN-Grand Palais (domaine de Chantilly)/Harry Bréjat

There were only fourteen prints: four new prints and ten previously released ones, the
latter representing only paintings absent from the exhibition – with the exception of
two that arrived during the exhibition. Absences that were particularly regrettable to
the organisers were moreover explained in the preface to the catalogue: The Children
of Edward25 had been lent by the Emperor to the Edinburgh exhibition; Charles I
Insulted by the Soldiers of Cromwell26 had been placed under seal after the death
of Lord Ellesmere; The Virgin in the Desert and A Child Learning to Read,27 which
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belonged to Lord Hertford, had been promised to an exhibition in England.28 The

arrival of Cromwell and Charles I,29 from the Musée de Nîmes, was eagerly antici-
pated. However, despite the persistent efforts of Charles Jalabert, student of the late
artist and member of the exhibition committee, the work could not be loaned, and
the sign that bore the name of Cromwell in gold letters remained displayed where
the painting was to have hung.30 The catalogue also included an appendix listing the
works that were not exhibited. All these measures reflected the organisers’ desire that
the exhibition be comprehensive, presenting the full wealth of the artist’s work by
recalling his success at the Salon and unveiling his later paintings.
The exhibition, like its catalogue, adopted a chronological approach, assimilating
the work with the temporality of the artist’s life following a biographical model. It
was divided into three rooms corresponding to three periods of the artist’s career. The
first room showed his debut at the Salon in the 1820s. His first steps in public life,
already marked by accolades, were followed by great triumphs at the official exhibi-
tion: the second room assembled paintings from the 1830s, the decade during which
he reached the peak of his career. Facing The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, the work

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74 Marie-Claire Rodriguez
that had met with the greatest success, was Lord Strafford on his Way to Execution31 –
one of three paintings that constituted his last submission to the Salon, in 1837 – thus
bringing to a close a period of the artist’s life marked by his public appearances. The
last room covered the years following his withdrawal from the Salon – nearly twenty
years of output – assembling largely unknown works. The arrangement of works in
the various spaces thus related Delaroche’s artistic life in terms of popularity, giving
a central place to its most famous paintings. But the story told in the first two rooms
was also that of the development of a genre, the historical genre, while the last room
bore witness to the construction of a new language that culminated, at the end of
Delaroche’s life, in explorations in religious painting. This story was carefully read,
observed and commented on by critics and provided a chance to rethink the painter’s
oeuvre, which until then had been defined essentially by his popular success at the
Salon and by the hemicycle of the École des Beaux-Arts, which ended the visit to the
In fact, Paul Delaroche’s posthumous retrospective offered a completely new inter-
pretation of his work and the unprecedented opportunity to analyse an artist’s career
in its entirety through a direct encounter with all his works. At the Salons, it had been
possible to view his work only in piecemeal fashion, often before it disappeared into
prestigious private collections, and, as we have already stressed, a whole section of his
work remained unknown. The exhibition met with wide public and critical acclaim.
Théophile Gautier clearly expressed his enthusiasm in L’Artiste:

Personally I enjoyed this solemn exhibition. In it, the work of the painter who
had recently died was exhibited frankly, from the beginning to the end, from his
first halting essays up until his last word, and this at a kind of limbo stage before
becoming a permanent part of posterity.32

The exhibition, ‘of the most vital and genuine interest’ (‘du plus vif et du plus réel inté-
rêt’) for Paul Mantz, recreated the personality of the painter and enabled one to ‘study
year by year, and almost day by day, the development of this talent’.33 Described as
‘strange and interesting’ (‘curieuse et intéressante’) by Etienne-Jean Delécluze, it gave
‘a complete picture of the whole of his work, of the progressive changes that his tal-
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ent experienced.’34 Similarly, Alexandre Tardieu highlighted the appeal of this colla-
tion, which allowed one ‘to follow through its transformations this persevering mind,
which, until the last, applied itself and improved’.35 Development, transformation, but
also progress: these were the key words of the analysis resulting from the retrospective
of the painter.
The notion of progress was particularly important in relation to the work of the
late artist because critics were in agreement that Delaroche was not a born painter
but rather a man of will and spirit whose life had been entirely devoted to work.
This aspect had evidently already been stressed in previous writings about the artist
and notably at the time of his death, where critics had summed up his life and work,
incorporating as far as possible the few later works glimpsed in Goupil’s window. But
the time was not then ripe for appraisal, critical scrutiny often wavering at such prox-
imity to death. In addition, monographic articles had until then been based only on
memories and reproductions. The posthumous retrospective called for a comparative
analysis based on real observation of the works in the context of the artist’s career,

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First posthumous retrospective in France – Paul Delaroche 75
thus highlighting in an unprecedented way the issue of progress. Gautier discussed
the major paintings of the master, from the ‘blind stumblings’ (‘aveugles tâtonne-
ments’) shown in the first room to the ‘enormous progress’ (‘énormes progrès’) of
his last paintings, noting a development already with The State Barge of Cardinal
Richelieu on the Rhone36 and Cardinal Mazarin’s Last Sickness37 and an even greater
one between Death of Elizabeth, Queen of England38 and Jane Grey.39 Charles Blanc
proposed a more detailed analysis, carefully observing changes in the painter’s style.
For this art historian, a progression was noticeable even in the first room: ‘even just
considering the paintings in the first room, we see him change and grow with every
step’.40 But both of them, like many critics, observed the most significant transforma-
tion in the last room.
In March 1857, Henri Delaborde had delivered in la Revue des deux mondes a
thorough study of the work of his teacher and close friend and had hinted at the
importance of the forthcoming re-evaluation: ‘if Mr Delaroche’s friends manage to
organise an exhibition where one can follow the complete story and uninterrupted
progress of this talented artist, there is no doubt that the endeavour will have, in some
respects, the character of a revelation’.41 The discovery of the religious paintings of the
last years was for Charles Blanc startling:

Here, the painter is suddenly transformed; he enters another sphere. So far, we

have seen him seek success in the most dramatic episodes of history, producing
emotion by a simple mental ploy [. . .]. Now, Delaroche arrives at the emotion no
longer via intellectual effort but via the heart.42

Even Théophile Gautier, who had been deeply hostile to the artist in his Salons, recog-
nised the value of his final paintings:

A striking thing, which emerges significantly from the exhibition, is the artist’s
steady progress throughout his career. The merit of his pictures could be assessed
in terms of their dates. Anyone who wanted the best need only take the latest. [. . .]
At a stage where decadence has long set in for many, Paul Delaroche continued,
and went on continuing, to better himself.43
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For Gautier, the ‘talented worker’ (‘ouvrier de talent’) and ‘fairly clever arranger’
(‘arrangeur assez adroit’) – as he had described Delaroche some twenty years ear-
lier44 – was, by the time of his death, on the way to becoming a great painter. For
Charles Blanc, the exhibition revealed that Delaroche ‘was truly an artist’ (‘était vrai-
ment un artiste’).45 And for the writer Barbey d’Aurevilly, the artist, whose last paint-
ings showed not just ‘simple progress’(‘simple progrès’) but a ‘real transformation’
(‘transformation réelle’), had reached the stature of a genius.46
The article Barbey d’Aurevilly published in the newspaper Le Pays was exclusively
devoted to his later achievements. For him, the painter’s ‘definitive and ultimate trans-
figuration’ (‘définitive et suprême transformation’) occurred with The Young Martyr
(Figure 5.3), a work of ‘complete perfection’ (‘perfection complète’), and with the
scenes of the Passion – The Virgin With the Holy Women (also entitled Good Fri-
day; Figure 5.4),47 The Return from Golgotha48 and The Virgin Contemplating the
Crown of Thorns49 – which expressed ‘the most inspired pathos’ (‘du pathétique le

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76 Marie-Claire Rodriguez
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Figure 5.3 Paul Delaroche, The Young Martyr, 1855, 171 × 148 cm, Paris, Musée du Louvre,
inv. R.F. 1038
Source: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre)/René-Gabriel Ojéda

plus inspiré’).50 Gautier had already noticed The Young Martyr in Goupil’s gallery
and been so struck by it that he devoted an article to the painting in L’Artiste, in
February 1857:

[. . .] although it bears the signature of Paul Delaroche, it is truly the work of a

great unknown painter who in no way resembles the author of Cromwell, Jane
Grey, the Beaux-Arts hemicycle or even The Assassination of the Duc de Guise.51

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First posthumous retrospective in France – Paul Delaroche 77

Figure 5.4 Robert Jefferson Bingham, ‘La Vierge chez les saintes femmes’, tableau de Paul
Delaroche, 1858, albumen silver print from glass negative, pasted on cardboard,
Kodak-Pathé collection, Paris, Musée d’Orsay, gift of the Kodak-Pathé Foundation,
inv. PHO 1983 165 159 2
Source: © Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Patrice Schmidt

Nevertheless, in the eyes of many critics, including Gautier and Blanc, The Assassina-
tion of the Duc de Guise remained, in the light of the artist’s whole output, one of his
masterpieces – even though a more recent painting, The Girondins, whose excellence
was recognised by both critics, had stolen its place, in Alexander Tardieu’s view, as his
masterpiece in the historic genre.52 But the ultimate religious paintings were certainly
the ones on which the critics focused their praise, and The Young Martyr, which
attracted unanimous acclaim, joined the ranks of the artist’s masterpieces. Only Paul
Mantz, who had expressed in L’Artiste his dislike of Delaroche some months before
the artist’s death, did not linger over the painting of the young saint, preferring, albeit
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still with some reservations, the scenes of the Passion.53

Although Mantz did not perceive any radical change in the late works and employed
terms such as ‘change’ (‘modification’) and ‘transformation’ (‘transformation’) with-
out ever speaking of progress, he seemed more taken with the drawings, ‘which,
although they undoubtedly display no remarkable power, are delicate and charm-
ing’.54 He noted particularly that the artist’s drawings sometimes contained a certain
boldness but observed with regret the disappearance of this boldness in the final work:

Incidentally, the study of Delaroche’s drawings reveals a not inconsequential fact:

he undoubtedly had a very astute, subtle and open intellect; he sometimes had
excellent ideas, but he didn’t dare carry them out. In the drawing Beatrice Cenci
on her Way to Execution,55 the composition is boldly conceived, and [. . .] the set-
ting is picturesque. But then look at the painting and see how Delaroche, fright-
ened at his own audacity, has restricted and diminished his subject!56

For the critic, the initial sketch for Mazarin57 led to the same conclusion: none of the
‘charming and spiritual’ (‘charmante et spirituelle’) study was found in the painting

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78 Marie-Claire Rodriguez
from the Pourtalès-Gorgier gallery. Similarly, Alphonse de Calonne, for whom Dela-
roche’s sketches demonstrated ‘laborious and skilful preparation rather than natural
and fertile inspiration’, nevertheless discerned in some of them ‘some ardour in the
composition’.58 In particular, he cited by way of example the first study for the paint-
ing The Conquerors of the Bastille Before the Hotel de Ville, 14 July 1789.59 But the
latter was absent from the exhibition, like the sketch of Mazarin; only the drawing
and painting of Beatrice Cenci offered the chance to make a tangible comparison
between a first draft and the final realization.
‘Some drawings given to his friends, compositions supplied from his sketch books,
show an aspect of the master’s talent unknown to the public’, announced the intro-
duction to the catalogue.60 This attempt to reveal a hidden side of his work was nev-
ertheless somewhat feeble and limited. More than two thirds of the drawings were
finished, independent works, mainly portraits. The few, carefully selected studies and
initial sketches were mostly in preparation for works that were absent from the exhi-
bition and, along with engravings, contributed towards the representation of these
missing works. The same was true of the rare painted studies and sketches. The lim-
ited place given to preparatory works certainly responded to a fear expressed within
the École des Beaux-Arts of jeopardising the painter’s reputation by revealing lower-
quality works. In the letter to Horace Vernet of 7 February 1857 that accompanied
the list of works, Goupil had tried to reassure him: ‘You will see that we mean to
display only interesting pieces and not, as has been insinuated, sketches and drawings
unworthy of the master’.61 This meticulous selection sufficed nevertheless to arouse
interest in these works. Although the chronological presentation was repeated only
occasionally in subsequent retrospectives, the studies and sketches, which revealed the
creative process, would occupy a growing place from the 1860s onwards, becoming
sometimes almost a leitmotif of posthumous exhibitions.
The legacy of this first French initiative was, in fact, substantial. Expectations were
high amongst critics, who had understood the value of such an exhibition, which
established a new way of seeing and gave them the chance to comprehensively appraise
the artist’s work in its entirety while he was taking his first steps into posterity. ‘The
idea is a good one, [. . .] we hope that it will find imitators and that these posthumous
exhibitions will become customary’, enthused Mantz.62 His wishes were fulfilled: two
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years after the Delaroche exhibition, a new posthumous retrospective was devoted to
Ary Scheffer, initiated by the Association des artistes. The mutual society into which
the proceeds of the previous exhibition had been paid – benefits amounting to the con-
siderable sum of 26,090 French francs of which 21,601 entered the association’s fund
after various expenses had been deducted – saw this successful new type of exhibition
as a honey pot for its relief fund. The Association subsequently organised numerous
retrospectives, but for this, its first such initiative, it preferred to delegate organisa-
tion entirely to the art dealer Francis Petit. The exhibition opened on 10 May 1859 in
galleries built in the gardens of the Marquis of Hertford’s private mansion at 26 bou-
levard des Italiens. An exhibition devoted to Delacroix was held in the same location
in 1864, this time initiated by Louis Martinet – who had taken over management of
the site – and his Société nationale des Beaux-Arts. The following year, a retrospective
devoted to Hippolyte Flandrin instigated by the Association des artistes, with the sup-
port of the artist’s family and friends, took over the École des Beaux-Arts again, on
this occasion a gallery in the school’s new Palais, on the quai Malaquais. The occupa-
tion looked promisingly secure: exhibitions devoted to Hippolyte Bellangé and Ingres

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First posthumous retrospective in France – Paul Delaroche 79
followed in 1867. Having become the leading venue for posthumous retrospectives,
the institution hosted, over the next decade, no fewer than thirteen such events, by
then a feature of Parisian artistic life.
But what remained after they closed? The exhibition catalogue, as well as articles
published on the occasion. The catalogue, although at that time more like a booklet,
nevertheless provided a valuable basis for the establishment of the catalogue raisonné
of the artist. In the publication accompanying the Delaroche exhibition, the presenta-
tion of the works included a wealth of information: dimensions; medium; size of the
figure; date, and possibly place, of creation; date exhibited at the Salon; signature;
name of the engraver, if applicable; name of owner and, in the case of historical paint-
ings, explanation of the subject. The catalogue raisonné of the works of Delaroche
soon made an appearance: it was edited by Goupil in March 1858, illustrated with
photographs by Robert J. Bingham (Figure 5.4).63 This publication, ground-breaking
for a contemporary artist, was closely related to his posthumous exhibition. As for
the remarkable reviews that the exhibition had generated, their impact was rather
short lived. Firstly, Delaroche was a neglected artist for a long time: after a tribute
at the Musée Ernest Hébert in Paris in 1984, the next major retrospective devoted to
him, held in Nantes and Montpellier, did not take place until 1999.64 Secondly, Dela-
roche’s last paintings, which according to Barbey d’Aurevilly, needed to remain ‘the
lightning that will not disappear’ – ‘Through their fixed beam we will see the artist’s
other works and judge them inferior, whatever their merit, in the splendour of this
lightning’, he had asserted boldly65 – are not the ones art history has remembered.
Conversely, in the words of the art historian Stephen Bann in 1997, ‘this last phase in
Delaroche’s career still seems virtually unknown and undervalued’.66 Twenty years on,
despite the spotlight focussed on the artist’s work by the retrospective of 1999–2000,
the situation seems to have changed little; for many, Delaroche remains essentially the
painter of Jane Grey, The Children of Edward, The Assassination of the Duc de Guise
and the Beaux-Arts hemicycle rather than the author of The Young Martyr, notwith-
standing the appeal it had had for critics in 1857.
Translated from French by Anne McDowall

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1 There were also exhibitions held in artists’ studios, often displaying a single recent painting,
as well as brief exhibitions that preceded auctions.
2 The regulations of the Salons of 1852 and 1853 limited submissions to three works per
genre that had not previously been exhibited.
3 For the Joseph Vernet exhibition, see Francis Haskell, The Ephemeral Museum: Old Mas-
ter Paintings and the Rise of the Art Exhibition (New Haven and London: Yale University
Press, 2000), pp. 18–19.
4 Letter preserved in the National Archives of Romania in Bucharest, and quoted in Annick
Bergeon, ‘Le temps ciselé. Correspondances autour d’une œuvre gravée: éditeurs, artistes,
critiques (1829–1859)’, in Hélène Lafont-Couturier, Annick Bergeon, Pierre-Lin Renié
and Sabine du Vignau, Etat des lieux, 1 (Bordeaux: Musée Goupil, 1994), pp. 37–88
(pp. 74–75). ‘C’est un deuil public et pour bien du monde un malheur irréparable. Pour
moi c’est un vide de tous les instants. . .’
5 Stephen Bann, Parallel Lines: Printmakers, Painters and Photographers in Nineteenth-Cen-
tury France (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 39.
6 Procès de MM. Delaroche, Mme Veuve Vernet, Mme Marjolin-Scheffer contre MM. Goupil
et Cie, éditeurs (Paris: Tribunal civil de la Seine, 1878), II, p. 51, quoted in Bann, Parallel
Lines, p. 40.

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80 Marie-Claire Rodriguez
7 The British Institution pioneered retrospectives of a deceased artist by organising an exhi-
bition in 1813 dedicated to Sir Joshua Reynolds, almost twenty years after his demise
(see Haskell, The Ephemeral Museum, pp. 50–58). In contrast, the exhibitions devoted to
Wilkie, Inman and Cole, like Delaroche’s, took place a short time after the artist’s death.
8 Delaroche held a particularly prominent place in Maison Goupil’s catalogues for several
decades; the painter’s popularity, measured by these catalogues, declined only from the
1880s onwards. See Pierre-Lin Renié, ‘Delaroche par Goupil: portrait du peintre en artiste
populaire’, in Paul Delaroche, un peintre dans l’histoire, ed. by Claude Allemand-Cosneau
and Isabelle Julia (Paris: RMN, Nantes: Musée des Beaux-arts, Montpellier: Musée Fabre,
1999), pp. 173–199.
9 Antoine Etex, Ary Scheffer. Etude sur sa vie et ses ouvrages. Exposition de ses œuvres au
Boulevard des Italiens, n° 26 (Paris: A. Lévy fils, 1859), p. 3.
10 Pauline Prevost-Marcilhacy, ‘La collection de tableaux modernes des frères Pereire’, in
Etudes transversales. Mélanges en l’honneur de Pierre Vaisse, ed. by Leila El-Wakil, Stéph-
anie Pallini, and Lada Umstätter-Mamedova (Lyon: Presses universitaires de Lyon, 2005),
pp. 139–157 (pp. 148–150).
11 Gustave Vapereau, Dictionnaire universel des contemporains, 2 vols (Paris: Librairie de L.
Hachette et Cie, 1858), II, p. 1362.
12 Commission of 4 February 1857, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, National Archives of France (NAF),
AJ/52*/15. ‘. . . donner un témoignage de l’estime qu’elle porte à l’illustre collègue dont elle
déplore la perte . . .’ For more details on the debates within the École des Beaux-Arts, see
Stéphanie Cantarutti, ‘Les expositions rétrospectives et monographiques d’artistes organ-
isées à l’École des Beaux-Arts de Paris au XIXe siècle’ (unpublished master’s thesis, École
du Louvre, 2006), pp. 61-71.
13 Letter from Félix Duban to Adolphe Jaÿ, President of the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 28
February 1857, NAF, AJ/52/838.
14 École impériale et spéciale des Beaux-Arts. Funérailles de M. Delaroche (Paris: Typ. de
Firmin Didot frères, fils et Cie, [1856]), pp. 5–8.
15 Letter from Adolphe Goupil to Horace Vernet, Paris, 7 February 1857, NAF, AJ/52/838.
16 Minutes of the 611th committee meeting of the Association des artistes, 14 November
1856, Paris, Fondation Taylor archives.
17 1824, oil on canvas, 277 × 217.5 cm, Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts. (Unless otherwise
indicated, all works mentioned are oil on canvas).
18 1833, 246 × 297 cm, London, The National Gallery.
19 1842, 116 × 76 cm, Nantes, Musée d’arts.
20 1853, 147 × 100 cm, location unknown.
21 1856, 58 × 98,5 cm, Paris, Musée Carnavalet, on loan to the Conciergerie.
22 1845, 180,5 × 137,5 cm, Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste. It was, however, the ver-
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

sion of the John Naylor collection, now preserved in the Musée de l’Armée in Paris, that
was exhibited.
23 1844, 147,7 × 87,5 cm, London, The Wallace Collection.
24 1842, 164 × 205 cm, Poznan, Museum Narodowe, Raczynski Foundation.
25 1831, 1831 Salon, 181 × 215 cm, Paris, Musée du Louvre.
26 1836, 1837 Salon, 284 × 392 cm, private collection.
27 1848, oil on mahogany panel, 13,7 cm diameter, London, The Wallace Collection.
28 Exposition des œuvres de Paul Delaroche. Explication des tableaux, dessins, aquarelles et
gravures exposés au Palais des Beaux-Arts, le 21 avril 1857 (Paris: Charles de Mourgues
frères, 1857), pp. XIV–XV.
29 1831, 1831 Salon, 228,5 × 295,5 cm, Fonds national d’art contemporain, on long-term
loan to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nîmes.
30 Emile Reinaud, Charles Jalabert, l’homme, l’artiste, d’après sa correspondance (Paris:
Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1903), pp. 101–102.
31 1836, oil on canvas, 265 × 314 cm, private collection.
32 Théophile Gautier, ‘Exposition des œuvres de Paul Delaroche au Palais des Beaux-Arts’,
L’Artiste, 3 May 1857, pp. 77–80 (p. 77). Translation by Cecil Gould in Delaroche and
Gautier: Gautier’s Views on the Execution of Lady Jane Grey and on Other Compositions
by Delaroche (London: National Gallery, 1975). ‘Nous aimons cette exhibition solennelle

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First posthumous retrospective in France – Paul Delaroche 81
où l’artiste mort, avant d’entrer définitivement dans la postérité, expose loyalement et
franchement ses toiles, depuis la première jusqu’à la dernière, depuis son premier bégaie-
ment dans l’art jusqu’à son mot suprême.’
33 Paul Mantz, ‘L’œuvre de Paul Delaroche’, Revue Française, May 1857, pp. 65–77 (p. 66,
67). ‘. . . on peut donc étudier année par année, et presque jour par jour, le développement
de ce talent . . .’
34 Etienne-Jean Delécluze, ‘Exposition des œuvres de Paul Delaroche’, Journal des débats, 24
April 1857, unp. ‘. . . une idée complète de l’ensemble de ses travaux, des modifications
progressives qu’a éprouvées son talent . . .’
35 Alexandre Tardieu, ‘Exposition des œuvres de Paul Delaroche à l’École des Beaux-Arts’,
Le Constitutionnel, 2 May 1857, unp. ‘. . . elle permet de suivre dans ses transformations
l’esprit persévérant qui, jusqu’au dernier jour, s’est appliqué, a progressé . . .’
36 1829, 1831 Salon, 57,2 × 97,3 cm, London, The Wallace Collection.
37 1830, 1831 Salon, 56,4 × 97,5 cm, London, The Wallace Collection.
38 1828, 1827–1828 Salon, 422 × 343 cm, Paris, Musée du Louvre.
39 Gautier, ‘Exposition . . .’, pp. 78–79.
40 Charles Blanc, Le Trésor de la curiosité tiré des catalogues de vente. . ., 2 vols (Paris: Ve
Jules Renouard, 1857–1858), 2 (1858), p. 561 (‘Paul Delaroche’, pp. 558–577). ‘. . . à ne
considérer même que les peintures exposées dans la première salle, on le voit à chaque pas
se transformer, grandir.’
41 Henri Delaborde, ‘Peintres et sculpteurs modernes de la France. Paul Delaroche’, Revue des
deux mondes, 1 March 1857, pp. 5–32 (p. 26). ‘. . . si les amis de M. Delaroche réussissent à
organiser une exposition où l’on pourra suivre l’histoire complète et les progrès non interrom-
pus de ce talent, nul doute que l’épreuve n’ait à quelques égards le caractère d’une révélation.’
42 Blanc, pp. 572–573. ‘Ici, le peintre se transforme tout à coup, il entre dans une autre sphère.
Jusqu’à présent, nous l’avons vu chercher le succès dans les épisodes les plus dramatiques de
l’histoire, produire l’émotion par un simple calcul de l’esprit [. . .]. Maintenant, Delaroche
arrive à l’émotion, non plus par un effort de l’intelligence, mais par le cœur.’
43 Gautier, ‘L’exposition . . .’, p. 78. ‘Une chose frappante, et que fait ressortir de la façon la
plus significative l’exposition du palais des Beaux-Arts, c’est le progrès non interrompu de
l’artiste à mesure qu’il avance dans son œuvre: le mérite de ses tableaux pourrait se classer
par dates, et qui voudrait prendre le meilleur, n’aurait qu’à emporter le dernier. [. . .] A
l’heure où pour beaucoup la décadence a commencé depuis longtemps, Paul Delaroche
s’élevait, s’élevait toujours.’
44 Théophile Gautier, ‘Salon de 1834’, La France industrielle, April 1834, pp. 17–22 (p. 18).
45 Blanc, p. 561.
46 Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, ‘Paul Delaroche, de ses derniers tableaux et de la pensée dans les
arts’, in L’Amour de l’art, ed. by Jean-François Delaunay (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Séguier,
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

1993), pp. 86–97 (pp. 86–87; first publ. in Le Pays, 21 May 1857, unp.).
47 1856, 26 × 51 cm, private collection.
48 1856, 27 × 53 cm, Beauvais, Musée départemental de l’Oise.
49 1856, 26 × 51 cm, location unknown.
50 Barbey d’Aurevilly, pp. 92–93.
51 Théophile Gautier, ‘Une Martyre. Dernier tableau de Paul Delaroche’, L’Artiste, 15 February
1857, pp. 145–146 (p. 145). ‘. . . quoiqu’il porte la signature de Paul Delaroche, il est véri-
tablement l’œuvre d’un grand peintre inconnu qui ne ressemble en aucune façon à l’auteur
du Cromwell, de la Jane Grey, de l’Hémicycle des beaux-arts et même de l’Assassinat du
duc de Guise.’
52 Tardieu, unp.
53 Paul Mantz, ‘Paul Delaroche’, L’Artiste, 25 May 1856, pp. 183–186, 1 June 1856, pp. 199–
202; Mantz, ‘L’œuvre . . .’, p. 75.
54 Mantz, ‘L’œuvre . . .’, p. 75. ‘L’exposition de l’école des Beaux-Arts montre de lui des des-
sins qui, sans doute, ne sont pas d’une force magistrale, mais qui sont délicats et charmants.’
55 1851, charcoal drawing enhanced with white, 25 × 16 cm, location unknown; 1855, oil on
canvas, 137 × 171 cm, location unknown.
56 Mantz, ‘L’œuvre . . .’, p. 76. ‘L’étude des dessins de Delaroche révèle d’ailleurs un fait qui
a sa gravité ; c’était, à n’en pas douter, une intelligence très-déliée, très-fine, très-ouverte :

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82 Marie-Claire Rodriguez
il avait des idées excellentes parfois, mais il n’osait pas les exécuter. Dans le dessin de La
Cenci marchant au supplice, la composition est hardiment conçue, et [. . .] l’arrangement
est des plus pittoresques. Regardez ensuite le tableau, et voyez combien Delaroche, effrayé
de sa propre audace, a restreint et amoindri son sujet !’
57 1830, pen and ink, enhanced with watercolour, on paper pasted on canvas, 14 × 23 cm,
Nantes, Musée d’arts.
58 Alphonse de Calonne, ‘Paul Delaroche et son œuvre’, Revue contemporaine et Athenæum
français, 15 May 1857, pp. 495–520 (p. 509). ‘. . . ses esquisses témoignent d’une prépara-
tion laborieuse et savante plutôt que d’une inspiration naturelle et féconde. Quelques-unes
cependant affectent une certaine fougue de composition . . .’
59 1830, watercolour, 29 × 30 cm, location unknown. The painting (400 × 435 cm) is pre-
served in the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.
60 Exposition des œuvres de Paul Delaroche . . ., p. XV. ‘Quelques dessins donnés à ses amis,
des compositions détachées de ses livres de croquis, montreront le talent du maître sous un
aspect inconnu du public.’
61 See note 15. ‘Vous verrez que nous entendons n’y mettre que des objets intéressants et nul-
lement, comme on a pu l’insinuer, des croquis et dessins indignes du maître.’
62 Mantz, ‘L’œuvre . . .’, p. 66. ‘L’idée est heureuse, [. . .] nous espérons qu’elle trouvera des
imitateurs et que ces exhibitions posthumes entreront dans nos habitudes.’
63 Henri Delaborde and Jules Goddé, Œuvre de Paul Delaroche reproduit en photographie
par Bingham, accompagné d’une notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Paul Delaroche par
Henri Delaborde et du catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre par Jules Goddé (Paris: Goupil et Cie,
1858). See Laure Boyer, ‘Robert J. Bingham, photographe du monde de l’art sous le Second
Empire’, Études photographiques, 12 (November 2002), <http://etudesphotographiques.> [Accessed 31 March 2017].
64 Claude Allemand-Cosneau and Isabelle Julia, eds., Paul Delaroche, un peintre dans l’histoire
(Paris: RMN, Nantes: Musée des Beaux-arts, Montpellier: Musée Fabre, 1999).
65 Barbey d’Aurevilly, p. 87. ‘Voilà l’éclair qui ne passera pas ! C’est à sa lueur fixée qu’on
regardera les autres œuvres du peintre et qu’on les jugera inférieures, malgré leur mérite,
dans la splendeur de cet éclair.’
66 Stephen Bann, Paul Delaroche: History Painted (London: Reaktion Books, 1997), pp. 22–23.
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

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