Scheffer, Ary

Dordrecht 1795 - Argenteuil 1858
Biography & List of works

Greek Women Imploring For Assistance

Greek Women Imploring For Assistance


Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 65 x 55 cm

Signed: and dated: A. Scheffer 1826


Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, later King of the French, 1826-1851; Prince Antoine d’Orléans, Duke of Montpensier (catalogued in his collection in Seville, no. 352); Infanta María-Isabel, (1848-1919), Countess of Paris (on her marriage in 1864); to Prince Ferdinand d’Orléans, Duke of Montpensier (1884-1924); in 1924 to his widow, Doña María Isabel de Olañeta y Ibarreta, Duchess of Montpensier, 3rd Marquesa de Valdeterrazo & Grandee of Spain (1893-1958); in 1958, to her second husband, José María de Huarte y Jaurégui, Marques viudo de Valdeterrazo (d.1969): his heirs (1969-1995).

Ary Scheffer (Dordrecht 1795 – Argenteuil near Paris 1858) received his first lessons in art from his parents Cornelia Lamme and Johann-Bernhard Scheffer, both of whom were painters. From 1806 to 1809 he studied at the Academy of Drawing in Amsterdam. In 1808, still only thirteen, he had his first success, exhibiting a picture whose theme was taken from Roman history, painted in a fairly monochrome, Rembrandtesque palette. After his father’s death in 1809 his mother took the boy to Paris, where he became a pupil of the neoclassical painter Guérin in 1811.

During the Bourbon restoration monarchy (I814/15-1830) Scheffer took an increasingly active part in politics. A supporter of liberal reform, he was a fierce opponent of the conservative Bourbon regime. He was on friendly terms with General La Fayette, a leading opposition figure, and was involved in the Carbonari plots to overthrow the government. The Greek independence movement excited his imagination and he produced six works inspired by their struggle against the Turks. Of these the Souliot Women (Salon of 1827, where it was purchased by the Nation) and the Greek Women Imploring the Virgin for Assistance are two of the most notable.

Having established as a reputation as both a genre and history painter and as a successful portraitist, he became one of the leaders of the Romantic movement. Scheffer had been drawing master to the Duke of Orléans’ children since 1822 and was on friendly terms with the family (painting numerous portraits of them). Orléans had acquired several of Scheffer’s early paintings including our Greek Women and proved a loyal patron. Following the July revolution of 1830 the Duke of Orléans became King of the French as Louis-Philippe I, further securing the artist’s position. Scheffer is best remembered for his Dante and Virgil Encountering the Shades of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, an icon of nineteenth century painting, of which the finest example may be seen in the exhibition Romance and Chivalry.

Scheffer’s Greek War pictures include several themes of isolation and persecution, notably the Greek Exiles on a Rock in which a small group look with evident longing towards their homeland (exhibited in 1825). The bravery and desperation of the struggle is expressed brilliantly in his Young Greek defending His Father. Few works, however convey the pathos of the Greek struggle and the sympathy which the plight of her Christian people encouraged among the French as our Greek Women of 1826. Here the desparate women, fleeing the aftermath of the Battle of Misslonghi, take shelter in a cave, praying for help. Acquired immediately by the Duke of Orléans it was shown at the Salon of the following year. Following the revolution of 1848 it was offered for sale with much of the rest of the collection and was acquired by the King’s son, the Duke of Montpensier with whose heirs it remained until 1996.