Lot 2
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Theodore Gericault

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Theodore Gericault
  • Cheval de Napoleon
  • Oil on canvas
  • 14 1/2 by 18 in.
  • 36.8 by 45.7 cm


Descendants of maternal relatives of artist
Mlle. Clouard, Mortain, France (cousin of the artist)
Felix Moulin (by 1905, relative of the above)
Henri Moulin (by descent)
Bernard Lorenceau, Paris (acquired from the above in 1957)
Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney (acquired from the above in 1958)


London, The Tate Gallery, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1960-61, no. 30
Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Detroit Institute of Arts; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Géricault, 1971-72, no. 12
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1983, no. 8
Southhampton, New York, Parrish Art Museum; New York, National Academy of Design, In Support of Liberty: European Paintings at the 1883 Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibition, 1986
Saratoga, New York, National Museum of Racing, A Selection of Equestrian Art from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, 1989, no. 11


Charles Clément, Géricault, étude biographie et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre du maître, Paris, 1879, no. 56, discussed pp. 290-291
Ernest Chesneau, Les Chefs d'école, Paris, 1883, discussed p. 185
Léon Rosenthal, Géricault, Paris, 1905, discussed p. 166
Dr. Bureau, 'Un artiste méconnu, le colonel Langlois, peintre de batailles," Art de Basse-Normandie, 1956, no. 3, illustrated p. 23
Jules and Gilles Buisson, "Géricault et le Mortainais," Revue de l'Avranchin, September 1957, no. 212, illustrated p. 332
Lorenz Eitner, "The Sale of Géricault's studio in 1824," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, February 1959, discussed p. 123, note 7
"London's glimpse at the private J. H. Whitney collection," Art News, New York, January 1961, illustrated p. 36
Philippe Grunchec, L'Opera completa di Géricault, Milan, 1978, no. 51, illustrated p. 92
Lorenz Eitner, Géricault, his Life and Work, London, 1983, discussed pp. 38, 327
Germain Bazin, Théodore Géricault, étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné, vol. III, Paris, 1997, no. 670, illustrated p. 131

Catalogue Note

Géricault’s passion for horses paralleled his prodigious talent as an artist.  Historically remembered for his grand-scale history paintings, Géricault also devoted a large amount of his career to studying and capturing the form and manner of the horse.   Although Charles Clément, one of Géricault’s earliest biographers, dates Cheval de Napoleon to 1815, it was most likely painted in 1813 when he was working at the Imperial stables at Versailles.  Géricault executed many sketches and several oil studies of Napoleon’s horses during this time.  The following year, Napoleon abdicated the throne but returned to power in February of 1815.  At this time, Géricault followed the Bourbon King Louis XVIII into exile.  Clément catalogued the present work in 1879 with the following text: "Horse of Napoleon.  It is white, Arabian, of extremely elegant proportions, saddled, bridled, ready to move off.  This picture, which, it is said, earned Géricault a gold medal from the Empress Marie-Louise, is supposed, according to family tradition, to represent a horse of Napoleon which Géricault allegedly painted from nature about 1815" (Charles Clément, Géricault, étude biographie et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre du maître, Paris, 1879, no. 56, p. 290).   

Géricault’s unique approach to the equestrian theme lay in his ability to capture the individuality of each horse, rather than focusing on the general characteristics of the breed.  Other works such as Twenty-Four Horses in Rear View (see fig. 1) or in Studies of Horses (see fig. 2), for example, reveal the artist’s sympathetic approach toward this subject.  In Cheval de Napoleon, Géricault has painted an elegant portrait of the stallion that carried France's conquering leader, abandoning the dramatic historical paintings of charging chasseurs and revolutionaries which characterized much of his career.  As John Rewald wrote, "There is an indefinable dignity and pride about the horse which seem to indicate that an Arabian pur sang needs no props to show off its high status" (John Rewald, The John Hay Whitney Collection (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1983, no. 8).

Fig. 1, Théodore Géricault, Twenty-Four Horses in Rear View, 1813-1814, oil on canvas, Paris, Vicomte de Noailles Collection

Fig. 2, Théodore Géricault, Studies of Horses, 1813-1814, pencil on paper, Chicago, The Art Institute