We had lost track of him since 1963. Study for the women of Algiers , a painting of the painter Eugène Delacroix, was hung in a paris apartment. “It was a painting that I had framed, that I had in my office. I like it a lot (…) it is a table that I was always challenged,” said his owner in France 3.

By visiting the retrospective of Delacroix at the Louvre in 2018, it is struck by the resemblance to a canvas of the master with the one which hung in his apartment. She decides to request the appraisal by the gallery owner Philip Mendes. It recognizes the style of the artist of Freedom leading the people immediately. “While Delacroix is here! The colors pulsate, the light vibrates”, says Mr. Mendes.

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a year and A half of historical research and careful study of the work of five experts, including Virginia Cauchi-Fatiga, has confirmed his intuition. “Full of small clues – the red spot in the white of the loop of the ear of the slave (as a way of raising the white) or red lines between the fingers – are typical of Delacroix,” explains the gallerist.

Of 46 and 38 cm, canvas orientalist is a preparatory study for the famous Women of Algiers exhibited at the Louvre. Painted in hues and lively touches, it shows a woman sitting in a pose lascivious next to a black slave who looks, turning her back, in the slanting light of a late afternoon.

The “Women of Algiers”, exhibited at the Louvre, of which the table found is a preparatory study. PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP

Fascinated by the Orient, Delacroix (1798-1863) was the one who went to Algiers in June 1832, after a stay in Morocco. Painted circa 1833-1834, this painting was in the collection of the comte de Mornay, a diplomat whom he had accompanied to North Africa. In January 1850, the count had sold at auction a part of its collection, including seven paintings by Delacroix. Three of them are now on display in French museums, the Louvre, the musée Fabre of Montpellier and at the Beaux-Arts of Rouen.

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Bought it for 450 francs in 1850

The number 118 for sale Mornay, that the one identified up to now as the table of Montpellier, proved to be brought to Philippe Mendes by this woman who was hanging in his paris apartment. It had been bought by a certain “Symonet young” for the sum of 450 francs. He was disappeared since then.

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This oil shows many repentirs (corrections), which characterize a long preparatory work. The x-ray has shown that this scene had a different scene painted by Delacroix – an old man seated, holding a bird – it had covered probably because it did not satisfy it.

In the final work exhibited at the Louvre, more elaborate, polished it, but less spontaneous, the women represented in this bourgeois interior are no longer two, but four. The two seats in the middle were in the canvas preparatory is located in the Fabre museum. “In this scene, the time is stopped. The table, with the dark door gaping in the middle, sharpens the imagination” on the East, emphasizes the parisian gallery owner.

The curious will have to hurry to admire this treasure found. according to Philip Mendes contacted by Le Figaro : “He’s on the verge of being sold to a large american museum” and is expected soon from the other side of the Atlantic.