Christie’s London to Sell Sketch for Delacroix’s Iconic Masterpiece ‘Liberty Leading the People’

Christie’s upcoming 19th Century European & Orientalist Art Sale in London will be led by a sketch for Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, which is expected to fetch £700,000-1,000,000 (US$936,600-1,338,000).

Sketch for Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix was the leader of the French Romantic School and one of the first modern masters. As an artist striving to capture the interplay between light and form, and fascinated with optical effects and strong colours, he reshaped the pictorial tradition, depicting both classical and unconventional subjects. His innovations inspired the Impressionist movement and paved the way for new styles of painting.

Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People commemorates the July Revolution of 1830, when public protests led to the abdication of the deeply unpopular King Charles X and his replacement by King Louis Philippe. The painting represents a pivotal moment in French history, with a woman leading the people forward over a barricade and the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution.

Delacroix depicted Liberty as both an allegorical goddess-figure and a robust woman of the people. The mound of corpses acts as a kind of pedestal from which Liberty strides, barefoot and bare-breasted, out of the canvas and into the space of the viewer.

Considered as one of the greatest paintings by Delacroix, the painting now hangs in the Louvre. It was acquired by the museum in 1831 for 3000 francs.

The artist made numerous drawings exploring both elements of the composition as a whole. However, the present lot is the only known sketch in oil and which fully outlines the intended final composition. This sketch, like many sketches and preparatory works, is unsigned. It was through meticulous research and the competency of several scholars on Delacroix that it regained its rightful place within Delacroix’s oeuvre.

Leading lot

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). Le 28 juillet – la liberté guidant le peuple, 1830.

Lot no.: 8
Size: 64.5x81.3cm
Created in: circa 1830.

  • (Probably) The artist, inv. no. 102, as 1 tableau représentant une esquisse de la liberté aux barricades par [M. Delacroix], 5F.
  • Collection Pierre Andrieu.
  • Grasset, Paris.
  • His sale; Hotel Drouot, Paris, 19-20 March 1918, lot 153, as Le 28 juillet 1830, 1er pensée.
  • Baron Hugo von Grundherr zu Altenthann und Weyerhaus, Munich and Castle Mittersill, Austria.
  • His sale; Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, 8 September 1924, lot 32 (unsold), as Combat de Barricade, Le 28 juillet 1830.
  • His sale (with the Hypothekenbank); Helbing, Munich 28 May 1930, lot 36 (unsold and returned).
  • Dr. Hans Wendland, Le Coultre Warehouse, Geneva*.
  • Sequestered by the Schweizerische Verrechnungsstelle, Zurich in 1945 and returned to Dr. Hans Wendland after 1945.
  • with Gallery Beyeler, Basel, acquired from the above through his brother-in-law Hans Fritz Fankhauser, in 1956.
  • Acquired from the above by Collection Stürm, Basel, in 1957.
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, Switzerland.

Estimate: £700,000-1,000,000 (US$936,600-1,338,000)

Other highlights

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). Bords de la Mer, Palavas.

Lot no.: 11
Size: 48.5x65cm

  • with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London.
  • Mr. Peto, Isle of Wight (by 1947).
  • Ruth Carter Stevenson (daughter of Amon Carter and founder and chairman of the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; acquired in 1977).
  • Sold by a member of the immediate family of the above through Pilsbury Peters Fine Art, Dallas.
  • Property of a Private American Collector; Sotheby’s, London, 3 June 2003, lot 139.
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

Estimate: £200,000-300,000 (US$267,600-401,400)

Alberto Pasini (1826-1899). Mercato a Costantinopoli.

Lot no.: 75
Size: 46.3x38.3cm
Created in: circa 1880.

  • with Galleria d'Arte Martina, Turin.
  • Private collection, Italy.

Estimate: £200,000-300,000 (US$267,600-401,400)

Auction details
Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: 19th Century European & Orientalist Art
No. of Lots: 84
London, King Street
13 Dec 9am - 4:30pm
14 Dec9am - 12pm
Auction: 14 Dec 2:30pm