Sir David Wilkie (British, Cults, Scotland 1785–1841 off Gibraltar)
Colored chalks and watercolor with white gouache on gray paper
sheet: 17 x 11 1/4 in. (43.2 x 28.5 cm)
Purchase, Anne and Jean Bonna Gift and Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2003
Not on view
Wilkie, who reenergized British genre painting in the opening decades of the nineteenth century, was adept at capturing faces and attitudes. In 1841 he traveled to the Holy Land to seek new material and died unexpectedly at sea while returning to London. The present work belongs to a series of vivid portraits of Middle Eastern characters that represent the artist's culminating achievement as a draftsman. Executed in a distinctive palette reminiscent of Rubens's trois crayons manner but with modern watercolors added to invigorate the traditional chalks, it seems almost aglow with color. Bold watercolor washes, enlivened by white gouache, describe the ample figure of an Ottoman official, commandingly positioned to be seen slightly from below. Wilkie typically made such drawings in pairs–intending one for the sitter and the other for himself. A journal entry made in Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) indicates that he began the commission on January 27, 1841, while an inscription at the bottom right of this sheet indicates its completion two days later. The Metropolitan's version of the portrait was likely that selected by the sitter, with its counterpart, retained by Wilkie, is now in the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.
Earl of Ellesmere (British); Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London); Christie's, London, December 15, 1950, lot 20 (18 gs. to Colnaghi); P. & D. Colnaghi & Co.; Spink-Leger Pictures (London); Christie's, London, November 14, 2002, 65; Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 28, 2003–July 27, 2003.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," March 26, 2007–June 24, 2007.
Allan Cunningham, Peter Cunningham The Life of Sir David Wilkie: with his journals, tours, and critical remarks on works of art: and a selection from his correspondence. 3 vols., London, 1843, p. 373.
Carmen C. Bambach, Elizabeth E. Barker, Michiel C. Plomp, Nadine Orenstein, Perrin Stein, Samantha Rippner "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2003-2004." in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 62, no. 2, Autumn 2004, p. 27, ill.