This small painting, which belonged to Paul Huet, reproduces a canvas by Flemish artist Petrus-Paulus Rubens (1577–1640), Tournament Near the Moat of the Château de Steen, in the Musée du Louvre (Department of Paintings, RF 1 798). The Musée National Eugène Delacroix has some fifteen graphite or ink drawings made by Poterlet after prints from the Flemish, Dutch, and French schools of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Study of Four Male Heads and Two Female Heads, purchased in 2004, illustrates a much different theme.
Delacroix met Poterlet in October 1818 when the young artist, aged 15, was copying an Italian painting in a room of the Musée de Louvre. The two men immediately became friends. According to Théophile Silvestre, once Delacroix had sketched out a major painting, he went to discuss it with his friend. In 1825, they traveled together to London, where they worked alongside Thalès Fielding, Richard-Parkes Bonington, and Alexandre-Marie Colin. A great admirer of Rembrandt, Poterlet traveled in 1827 to Hollard to copy the artist’s works. He died young, at the age of 32, before he had time to fully develop his talents as a painter and draftsman.
What we know today of this artist is essentially his copies of master artists from the Renaissance to the 18th century. In 1827 Poterlet exhibited a canvas at the Salon that was inspired from a Walter Scott novel, Peveril of the Peak. In 1831, he sent a painting to the Salon that was, on the other hand, inspired from Molière’s The Learned Ladies; it was titled The Quarrel Between Vadius and Trissotin (Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Paintings, RF 7 269) and was purchased by Louis-Philippe. Molière was also the source for the subject of the work exhibited in 1833 (The Imaginary Invalid). He must have been the inspiration for the posthumous tribute by critic Jules Janin that appeared in L’Artiste: "A young man who died when reading The Imaginary Invalid, like Molière who died while acting it."
In 2004, another copy of the Tournamet by Poterlet was among the works in the Miquel collection put up for sale.
Edwart Vignot, Hippolyte Poterlet (1803-1835), un inspirateur direct de Eugène Delacroix, Paris, 1998.