Study for Marphisa

Eugene Delacroix(French, 1798-1863), 1850 Brush and brown ink over pencil 1998.17 Gift of Catherine Baer, from the Curtis Baer Collection

This piece is one of several preliminary sketches for a painting, Marphisa and Pinabello’s Lady, which depicts an episode from Ludovico Ariosto’s sixteenth-century epic romance Orlando Furioso. While the maiden warrior Marphisa and the old woman Gabrina are travelling together, they encounter the knight Pinabello and his lady, who mocks the old woman and her clothing. In response Marphisa challenges and defeats Pinabello, and then forces the proud lady to disrobe and give her finery to Gabrina. This sketch reduces the episode to a contrast between victory and humiliation. Marphisa in armor dominates the center of the image. Her arm is raised in a powerful gesture, while the lady crouches before her, her exposed flesh indicated by bare paper. This sketch is very different in composition from the final painting, and, thus, must represent quite an early stage in Delacroix’s thinking.