Museum of Fine Art Acquires Long Lost French Masterpiece

Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Art Houston.

One of the famous “Women of Algiers” painting by French painter Eugene Delacroix now has a new home in Houston’s Museum of Fine Art.

The painting was thought to be lost for over a century and a half until a private collector, who had a suspicion that this could be a genuine Delacroix piece, reached out to a French art dealer to discuss it. It had been hanging in the owner’s apartment for years prior.

History of the Painting

Phillipe Mendes, the art dealer who was reached out to by the private collector, did some research on the piece after it’s discovery. He found that it was painted in 1834 and was sold to Count Charles-Edgar de Mornay who himself, sold the masterpiece on in 1850, at which point, the painting was simply “lost in time”.

“The picture, which depicts a woman reclining in a chair, is said to have been painted by Delacroix during a visit to Algiers (part of a 6 month journey he’d taken to north Africa) where a Muslim Port-Authority official invited Delacroix into his home to sketch the ladies in his household” says Quentin Patenaude an art expert and spokesperson from REVIEWBOX. “The image is actually one of three versions that were painted by the artist; a larger, landscape version currently hangs in the gallery at the Louvre and the third, which was painted between 1847-49 is currently at the Musee Fabre in Montpelier” he continues.

Links to Picasso

Many people who are not huge fans of Delacroix may be familiar with the “Women of Algiers” painting thanks to Pablo Picasso’s depictions of it. Over a relatively small, 2 year period (1954-55), he was said to have created 15 versions of the painting all referred to under their French name “Les Femmes d’Alger”. The final version of the painting, known as “Version O” was bought back in 1997 from Ganz’s collection for $31.9 million. Almost 20 years later it popped up again at Christie’s in New York and was sold for $179.4 million to Hammad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, a former Qatar Prime Minister. The sale of the piece marked a world record the highest amount a piece of artwork has sold for at auction.

Version O – Picasso Painting – Image courtesy of Christies.

The amount the Houston museum paid the French dealer remains undisclosed but, the painting is sure to attract Delacroix fans from around the world to our city. The image is considered somewhat of a “holy grail” for collectors of his work and we are excited for the public to see this special piece for themselves over the coming weeks and months.