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Gustave de Lassalle-Bordes Virgile Greeting Dante in Limbo

© RMN / J-G. Berizzi

MD 1993-12 Vers 1842-1845 Graphite Gift of Richard Garcia, 1993 H. 0,441; L. 0,285 m

© RMN / J-G. Berizzi

This drawing comes from Lassalle-Bordes’s own collection. There are similarities with Delacroix’s decoration of the dome in the library of the Palais du Luxembourg, painted from 1840 to 1846, representing Limbo as described in Canto IV of Dante’s Inferno.

The two compositions are similar in terms of subjects and parallels can indeed be made, yet something is out of place in this drawing: it does not depict the figures as mentioned in the original text, in which Dante is welcomed in Limbo by the poet Homer and not by Virgil, who nonetheless accompanies him. Faithful to Dante’s text, the definitive décor does depict Homer, surrounded by the poets Ovid, Stace and Horace, welcoming Dante, who is brought by Virgil. The museum has another study by Lassalle-Bordes for this décor, designed as a long frieze.


Gustave de Lassalle-Bordes (1815-1886)

After working with Jules-Claude Ziegler on the dome of the Église de la Madeleine in Paris, Lassalle-Bordes became the ‘massier’ (or supervisor) in Delacroix’s studio in 1838 and the artist’s chief assistant for the decorations in the libraries in the Palais Bourbon (now the Assemblée Nationale) and the Palais du Luxembourg (the Sénat), as well as the Église Saint-Denis-du-Saint-Sacrement in Paris. He was also in charge of preparing the cartoon of Saint Louis de Taillebourg for the stained-glass in the Cathedrale de Dreux. He exhibited at the Salon, and in 1846 won a gold medal for his Death of Cleopatra (Autun, Musée Rodin).

After 1848, he quarreled with Delacroix, accusing the artist of preventing Haussmann, prefect of the Seine, from giving him the project to decorate the Sanctuary of the Église de Belleville and major projects for the Conseil d’Etat. Embittered, he left the master in 1851 and returned to his native province. Lassalle-Bordes stayed in Auch until his death, sustaining himself through his painting and his job as a professor of drawing in the local schools. Given his status as Delacroix’s student, he enjoyed local fame and obtained various commissions to decorate châteaux and churches in the region. In 1854, he was hired to decorate the Église de Nérac in the Lot et Garonne département, and in 1870, was commissioned to decorate the three chapels in the Cathédrale de Condom. The Musée Eugène Delacroix has several studies for these two large decorative projects.

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