Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 27 x 35.5 cm
Signed: Lower left: Eugène Delacroix 1847
Gustave Arosa to 1878; acquired by his brother, Achille Arosa; his sale, (Drouot – Georges Petit and Eugène Feral, Paris), 6 May 1891, lot 12 (‘Lion dévorant un chamois’) 16,100 fr.to Montaignac; Richard Austin Robertson, New York[i]; sale his estate (American Art Galleries, New York), 7 April New York, 1892, lot 71 (‘Lion devouring a Goat’, 10 ½ x 14 in., with mention of provenance from the Arosa collection), $4,300 to Richard & Co.; George I. Seney;[ii] his sale (American Art Galleries, New York), 7 Feb. 1894, lot 259, $1,800 to Mr Pembroke Jones,[iii] New York; James McGrane, Ossining, New York; sale his estate et al. (Westchester Auction Gallery, Yorktown, New York), 6 June 1981 lot 229; Stair Sainty Gallery, New York; Salander–O’Reilly Galleries, New York; Private collection, Minneapolis.
[i] Robertson was a noted art collector, married to Mary B. Gould; his sudden death in 1892 less than a year after he had acquired Lion Devouring a Goat, led to the sale of his entire collection to settle his estate – the collection fetched the considerable sum of $451,000.
[ii] George Ingram Seney was a prominent New York banker and art collector, who had lost much of his fortune with the collapse of the Metropolitan Bank and was forced to sell most of his collection in 1884 and 1891. His purchase of Lion Devouring a Goat seems to have been intended to mark the beginning of a new collection, but he died just a year later.
[iii] Pembroke Jones was from a prominent Delaware family and a leading figure in Wilmington society who made his fortune in the railroads and a lifelong friend of Henry Walters, whose fortune and collection provided the foundation of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. Jones’s rising fortunes encouraged him and his wife to move to New York where they were soon accepted in to the “400”, the most prominent New York families, and acquired a splendid town house at 5 East 61st Street where they entertained lavishly (with a Russian chef). They spent part of their summers at Newport, Rhode Island, having acquired the state of Theodore Havemeyer on fashionable Bellevue Avenue (it has not been divided into apartments). Jones play a major role in the development of the Port of Wilmington. Following his death in 1919, his widow married Henry Walters. Jones left $50,000 to acquire the land for what became the Pembroke Jones Park – he left two children, Pembroke Jones, who inherited the painting, and Sara, who married the renowned architect John Russell Pope (architect of the West building of the National Gallery, Washington, the National Archives and the Jefferson Memorial).
Thoré, Theophile, ‘Salon de 1848’, Le Constitutionnel, March 17, 1848, (reprinted in T. Thoré 1870, p.364); Jan, Laurent, ‘Salon de 1848’, Le Siècle, April 11, 1848; P. Haussard, ‘Salon de 1848’, Le National, 23 March, 1848; L. Clément de Ris, ‘Salon de 1848’, L’Artiste, 5th ser. I, 3rd livraison, 26 March, 1848, p. 59; P. de Saint-Victor, ‘Exposition de 1848’, Le Semaine, 26 March, 1848; F. de Merecy, ‘Le Salon de 1848’, Revue de Deux Mondes, XXII, 2nd livration, 15th April, 1848, p. 292; T. Gautier, ‘Salon de 1848’, La Presse, 25 June, 1848; Silvestre, Delacroix, 1855, p. 82, Moreau, Adolf, Delacroix et Son Oeuvre, Paris, 1873, p. 150 and 184; Robaut, Alfred, L’Oeuvre Complete de Eugene Delacroix, Paris 1885, No. 1021, ill. p. 269 (reproduced in reverse from the woodblock engraving); Moreau-Nelaton, Etienne, Delacroix racontre par lui même, Paris, 1916, Fig, 277; L. Rudrauf, ‘De la bête à l’ange (les étapes de la lute vitale dans la pensée et l’art d’Eugene Delacroix’, Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, IX, fasc. 3-4, 1963, p.307; Johnson, Lee, ‘Delacroix et les Salons. Documents inédits au Louvre’, Revue du Louvre, XVI, 1966, p. 226; Bordatto, L.R., Delacroix, Rizzoli, 1972, No. 501, ill., p. 117; Johnson, Lee, ‘Saleroom Note. A Salon Painting by Delacroix’ Burlington Magazine, CXXIII, no. 920 (Nov), 1981, p. 773 and Fig. 9 (negative plate printed in error), and Burlington Magazine, CXXIV (1982), fig 77 (corrected print), p. 126; Johnson, Lee; The paintings of Eugene Delacroix – A critical Catalogue, Vol. III, No. 179, p. 13-14, ill., Vol IV, Plate 11.
Salon, Paris, 1848, No. 1162; École de Beaux-Arts, Paris, Exposition Eugene Delacroix, 6 March – 1 April, 1885, Cat. 4, p.29 (lent by Achille Arosa).
Print: Wood-engraving in reverse by Pisan after drawing by Louis Marvy, for Magasin pittoresque, XVI (May 1848), p. 176
Delacroix’s earliest portrayal of wild felines – a lion and tiger – dates from 1828-29 in a small painting (23.9 x 32.1 cm) exhibited at the Musée Colbert in December 1829 (Prague, National Gallery). His continuing interest in these subjects is evidenced by two series of studies of lions and lionesses form 1830 and a magnificent painting of a Young Tiger Playing with its Mother (131 x 194 cm) exhibited at the Palais Luxembourg in 1830 and the Salon of 1831 (Paris, Louvre). His interest in the subject continued throughout his career with several series of paintings of lions and tigers done in oil, pastel and watercolour, some with just one animal, perhaps eating its prey, in pursuit or simply standing or lying down, others of lion hunts. These latter were a deliberate tribute to Rubens whose paintings of Lion Hunts influenced Delacroix who, however, sought for greater clarity of composition. His fascination with feline subjects remained a preoccupation until the end, his splendid painting of a Tiger Playing with a Tortoise (45.7 x 62.9 cm), from 1862, was particularly notable (sold in 2018 from the Rockefeller Collection for just short of $10 million.
Our Lion Devouring a Goat dates from 1847 (the date given by Robaut) and was one of six paintings he presented at the 1848 Salon, where critics who commented on it were “almost without exception enthusiastic” (Johnson, The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix, catalogue raisonné, under 179, volume III, p. 14). It is on an identically sized canvas to two other similar subjects, the Tiger Reclining by its Den of 1832 (Cairo, Mahmoud Khalil Museum) and Lion in the Mountains of 1851 (Copenhagen, Ordrupgaard Museum) while several other feline subjects were on slightly smaller or just marginally larger canvases or panels. These paintings were evidently intended for discerning collectors, another work from the same year, Lion Mauling a Dead Arab, probably from 1847, being acquired by the critic Théophile Thoré, one of those who wrote admiringly of our painting.
Gustave and Achille Arosa, the first owners of Lion Devouring a Goat, were the sons of a successful financier, François Ezéchiel Arosa, a Spaniard of Sephardic Jewish origin. He had moved to Paris from Madrid at the end of the Napoleonic wars, for business reasons, and he and his sons had extensive dealings with two other prominent French Jewish families, the Rothschilds and Pereires. Part of the Arosa fortune had been earned in the guano trade, and it was through their business dealings with the Enchinique family, who owned a substantial guano business based in Peru, that Gustave would have become acquainted with the young Paul Gauguin and his mother, who had lived with the Enchiniques in Peru. When the widowed Mme Gauguin returned to Paris with her family it seems that she was set up as a seamstress by Gustave Arosa and her children were brought up as part of the Arosa family. Paul’s sister was treated as an adopted daughter and Gauguin as Gustave’s ward; after Paul’s release from the navy, Gustave advanced his business career, recommending him for a job on the Paris stock exchange. Growing up as part of the Arosa household, the young Gauguin was exposed to the considerable Arosa art collection, including our painting, as well as meeting the wide circle of the family’s friends and social contacts, who included members of the Portuguese, Spanish, British and Latin American communities in Paris. These included the parents and brother of Camille Pissarro, by whom both Arosa brothers were to acquire several works.
Gustave Arosa’s financial reversals in 1877 forced the sale of some seventy-four paintings from his collection, fifty-six of which were reproduced in photographs in the auction catalogue. The sale included sixteen paintings by Delacroix, nine Corots (two of his greatest masterpieces), seven Courbets (among which were his Self-Portraitist, as a Cellist, and a Young Woman Sleeping, an erotic work that must have impacted Gauguin), as well as works by Jongkind, Daumier, Boudin, Rousseau, Diaz and Harpignies. Rick Bretell in Gauguin and Impressionism wrote “the veritable cache of paintings and watercolours by Delacroix was even more important for Gauguin’s development as an artist… Although small in scale, these works showed an emotional and intellectual range unmatched by any other artist in the collection… the foundation of his ambitious and literary art rested on the major Delacroix collection owned by his guardian.” Our painting was not included in Gustave’s sale but appears to have been acquired by Achille Arosa, who does not appeared to have shared Gustave’s reversal of fortune, directly from his brother and was the only work by Delacroix to be included in Achille’s sale in 1891.
Achille Arosa was the lover for some years of Clementine de Bussy (Mme Roustan, who for a while styled herself Octavie de la Ferronière), a seamstress, and the aunt of Achille-Claude Debussy, of whom Achille Arosa was both Godfather and guardian. The splendid Arosa house at Saint-Cloud was painted by Gauguin in 1885 and the young Achille-Claude was a frequent guest; Achille had visited Tahiti as a young man and it was he who encourage Gauguin to go there later. The Saint-Cloud house was also where Achille placed the four seasons he had commissioned from Camille Pissarro and his patronage proved to be an important stage in Pissarro’s burgeoning reputation. Achille’s mansion near Cannes was a second home to the young Debussy and where he spent some idyllic holidays (remarking later upon the beauty of the roses there). It was while staying with his Godfather and aunt in Cannes that the seven year old Debussy had his first piano lessons and where his musical talents were first noted. Achille Arosa died in 1908 having lived to see the boy he had supports as child become one of France’s most famous and innovative composers.