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Letter from Jenny Le Guillou to Léon Riesener

Jenny Le Guillou (Pleyben-Finistère - 1801- Paris,1869)

© RMN / F. Raux

Jenny Le Guillou
(Pleyben-Finistère - 1801- Paris,1869)

MD 2002-173
Signed autograph letter,
dated 13 august 1863
Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée Delacroix, 2002
1 p. in-8°

Jenny Le Guillou (1801-1869), who had worked for Delacroix since 1835, remained faithful to his last breath, watching him over during the night he died. Théophile Silvestre recorded his final moments: "For two hours, he was almost constantly looking straight at Jenny, as they held hands. Lying on his left side and having difficulty breathing, he heard the Angelus from Saint-Germain-des-Près and made a small movement. Around quarter to seven in the morning, he was still breathing. By seven o’clock, it was over."

 

Jeanne-Marie, known as Jenny, Le Guillou (1801–1869)

Born in the Finistère region, Jenny Le Guillou started working for Delacroix around 1835 and stayed with him until his death. At first, she acted as his faithful housekeeper, protecting the painter from everyday worries, and overtime became his friend and confidante. In 1855, Delacroix described her as "the only person whose heart is unconditionally mine."

At Delacroix’s deathbed

Lavishing care on Delacroix when his health took a serious turn for the worse, Jenny Le Guillou — who took the time to notify the master’s friends and relatives that he was nearing the end of his life — picked up her pen once again to announce his death, which occurred on 13 August 1863 at 7 am. To Léon Riesener, Delacroix’s cousin, she sent this short note, which terse style only heightens the cruelty of the message: "Dear Sir, since Monsieur Delacroix wrote you he became much more ill, and I was so worried and troubled; and as you said that you were going to come see him, I didn’t write you; and Monsieur died this morning at 7 am."

Documentation

Théophile Silvestre, Eugène Delacroix, Documents nouveaux, Paris, 1864, pp. 59-64

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