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Arabic stringed instrument (rabab,’ud)

© RMN / M. Bellot

MD 2002-181
first part of XiXe siècle (?)
Wood, ivory, mother-of-pearl, leather, skin, trim
Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée Delacroix, 2002
H. 0,409 m

During his trip to Morocco (late January–July 1832), Delacroix saw various types of musical instruments, such as vieles and lutes. This viele, a stringed instrument that has been used since ancient times, is still played to this day in Morocco, where it is an important instrument in Arab music. Like other musical instruments in the museum’s collection, this piece was one of a number of Morocco objects that Delacroix bequeathed to Charles Cournault (1815–1904), a friend and painter who traveled several times to Algeria.


This viele is a sound box of hollowed-out wood, covered with skin (sheepskin, in all likelihood), with two holes on the side. The top is decorated with a sculpted, openwork design consisting of two superimposed rosettes and two star-shaped medallions with small mother-of-pearl inlays. Fleuron motifs and geometric lines complete the design.

Several musicians from Mogador in Morocco

In 1832, Eugène Delacroix was part of Comte de Mornay’s diplomatic mission to the Moroccan sultan, Muley Abd-err-Rahmann. He traveled around the country, from Tangiers to Meknes, for six months; on his way back to France, he also visited Algeria and southern Spain.

During this trip, Delacroix had the privilege, during concerts and festivals, of observing the flared-shaped traditional lute, known as the aoud. He probably used his drawing, highlighted with watercolor (Two Studies of an Arab Aoud, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Prints and Drawings, RF 10 102) as the starting point for various studies in the same technique depicting Jewish or Moroccan musicians, such as Jewish Musicians from Mogador (Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Paintings, RF 1 651) or Arabs Clowns and Actors (Tours, Musée des Beaux-Arts). These depictions illustrate Delacroix’s great interest in these instruments, which sounds were so different from those he knew. Hence, the painter wrote in his Journal on 30 March 1832: "The emperor sent us several musicians from Mogador. It is the best the empire has to offer.”

The Jewish Wedding in Morocco

Painted in 1834, the famous canvas entitled Jewish Wedding in Morocco (Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Paintings, RF 3 825), which also represents musicians, was inspired from one of the celebrations Delacroix attended in Tangiers. On 21 February 1832, the painter wrote in his Journal: "The Jewish wedding. The Moors and Jews as two musicians enter. The violin. Thumb in the air. The hand. The bow. The underside of the other hand very dark. Light behind. The haik on the head is transparent is places. White sleeves, dark in the back of the violin. Seated on his heels and jellaba. Black between the two in the back. The guitar cover on the player’s knee…"

The museum’s collection of Morocco objects

The Musée National Eugène Delacroix has a large number of Moroccan objects from the collection of Etienne Cournault, grandson of the painter Charles Cournault (1815–1904), bequeathed to him by Delacroix. From 1847 to 1852, Charles Cournault was close to the painter, notably through their shared fascination for North Africa. He made several trips to Algeria and returned with a collection of studies and Arab souvenirs that he willingly lent to Delacroix.

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