Portrait of a Woman in a Blue Turban
Eugène Delacroix ( French, 1798 - 1863 )
- About 1827
In this portrait, Eugène Delacroix uses the familiar conventions of Renaissance portraiture to lend a solemn dignity to the model. The solid pyramid formed by her body, set at a slight angle to the viewer, and the low horizon of the landscape behind her remind us of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1517, Musée du Louvre, Paris) . Although the sitter's blue turban and paisley shawl seem to allude to her status as an exotic foreigner, these accessories were probably studio props, much like the elaborate jeweled brooch, which appears in another portrait Delacroix painted at around the same time.
Although we do not know the name of the sitter for this portrait, she was certainly one of the non-European models that Delacroix employed during the 1820s while working on his monumental paintings of subjects drawn from Near Eastern history and Orientalist literature. The portrait could be the same one Delacroix exhibited at the 1827 Paris Salon under the title “Study of an Indian Woman’s Head.” The same model appears in Delacroix’s famous Death of Sardanapalus (1827, Musée du Louvre, Paris). Delacroix’s repeated representations of exotic women are a sign of the romantic appeal of foreign lands and peoples in his day, particularly the Middle East and North Africa. Although non-European women appear in many of his compositions, Delacroix did very few proper portraits, free of historical or foreign contexts.
Heather MacDonald, DMA Label copy (2005.34.McD), August 2009.
Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 182.
Eugène Delacroix, Death of Sardanapolous (1827)
Look closely at this iconic painting and note the woman shown laying near the foot of the bed. She may be the same model who posed for Portrait of a Woman in a Blue Turban.
Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa (c. 1503-1506)
Remind yourself what this iconic painting looks like and think about how it illustrates traditional, three-quarter length portraiture and uses a pyramidal composition.